Tag Archives: Alpha House

How Amazon Built a Studio That’s Finally Challenging Netflix

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As Amazon prepares to launch its third pilot season, I had a lengthy chat with Amazon Studios director Roy Price about his company’s strategy, measuring success, his terrific new series Transparent and competing with Netflix. He answered so many of my questions about Amazon, including what defines a successful series for them:

The main thing we’re focusing on is making Prime fantastic. And one of the things people really respond to is original new series, so we’re paying attention to, are people engaged with the show? Does it add value to the service as a whole? So it’s about views, and talking about the shows, and if you watch the whole season, how did you rate the show…Basically, do people really seem to value the show as part of the service?

Last year, we premiered Alpha House and Betas, and they premiered at, and hung around at, the number one and two series for awhile, so that’s very encouraging, because it shows that people are really getting into it and heavily sampling the shows. That’s the kind of thing we want to see, that it becomes a meaningful part of the value that the service provides. Ultimately, you’d like to see more people joining the service, and you’d like to see that people who watch the shows and enjoy the shows renew their subscription.

Price, who was a terrific interview, also talked about Amazon’s rationale for not disclosing ratings, how the public pilot process really works and whether Amazon considered picking up beloved-but-canceled shows like Community and Enlisted.

How Amazon built a studio that’s finally challenging Netflix

Netflix Has Gone From Emmys Crasher to Guest of Honor

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I arrived in Los Angeles yesterday for TCA summer press tour, and one of my first assignments was this Quartz reaction to today’s Emmy nominations. As the streaming network more than doubled its 2013 nomination tally, from 14 to 31, it’s shifted from interloper to frontrunner.

But today’s impressive tally also increases the pressure on Emmy night. After last year’s Emmys, I wrote that Netflix was one of the night’s biggest winners, even though it didn’t win any major awards. Last year, just earning those nominations and smaller wins (like the directing Emmy for House of Cards) legitimized Netflix in the same way that early Emmy victories had once done for HBO, AMC, and FX.

This year, however, House of Cards and Orange is the New Black have catapulted from “just happy to be here” to frontrunner status. That means on August 25, Netflix needs to win one of the big trophies—outstanding comedy series for Orange, or outstanding actor in a drama for Kevin Spacey of House of Cards—to truly be considered one of television’s elite networks.

Plus, charts!

Netflix has gone from Emmys crasher to guest of honor

John Goodman on Getting Wooed by Clooney and Bunking with Bruce Willis

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I made one final visit to The A.V. Club to do one of their Random Roles features, in which they ask an actor with a lengthy resume to talk about several of their roles over the years. It was thrilling to do this with John Goodman, who often seems to appear in every film and TV show (including his latest film, The Monuments Men).

Why does Goodman say yes to so many roles? “They were just too good to pass up,” he tells The A.V. Club. “Or, they seemed that way at the time!”

This was a fun trip down memory lane, helping Goodman — who is often a man of few words, at least when it comes to doing interviews — recount a fraction of his memorable TV and film performances. I’ve loved reading these Random Roles stories for years, so it was nice to close out my A.V. Club writing by putting together one of them myself.

John Goodman on Getting Wooed by Clooney and Bunking with Bruce Willis

Where Did All the Inspiring TV Politicians Go?

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I returned to The A.V. Club for a story about how much the depiction of political leaders have changed on TV from the days of The West Wing’s Josiah Bartlet. As I wrote,

Seven years after The West Wing ended its run, audiences now gravitate toward political shows like House Of Cards, Scandal, Veep, and the new Alpha House, which are all marvelous (okay, maybe not Alpha House, though John Goodman provides the hope that it might find its way), but revolve around presidents and other leaders who are either despicable, incompetent, or both. In other words, they’re just as selfish, sleazy, and/or stupid as we perceive many contemporary leaders to be.

Where Did All the Inspiring TV Politicians Go?

NBC Just Bought a Network to Cash in on Toddlers and Tablets

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In my latest piece for Quartz, I looked at NBCUniversal Cable Entertainment’s acquisition of preschool network Sprout, and focused on one key area that the company will be looking to improve: Sprout’s paltry streaming app.

While Sprout reaches 60 million homes and boasts 1.5 billion on-demand views since its 2005 launch, its app numbers are less impressive. Sprout’s app, launched in March 2012, has been downloaded 1.5 million times. Meanwhile, the Watch Disney Junior app, which Disney debuted in June 2012, has already been downloaded 5 million times, generating more than 650 million video views. Nickelodeon, which introduced a new app for its flagship network in February,plans to roll out a Nick Jr. app for preschoolers next spring.

However NBCUniversal decides to overhaul Sprout’s app, it had better do it quick: many kids, mine including, have abandoned it completely.

NBC just bought a network to cash in on toddlers and tablets

Why Amazon, bucking the Netflix strategy, won’t release its original series all at once

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As Amazon tries to play catch-up with Netflix by streaming its first original series, it’s diverting from Netflix’s playbook in one major way: instead of releasing Alpha House’s entire first season at once a la House of Cards, Amazon will make the first three episodes available at once, and then debut one new episode each week. As I wrote at Quartz,

Amazon Studios Director Roy Price said it opted for a weekly release schedule “so that customers can chat about the shows and build up anticipation,” adding that the Netflix release model kills the conversation and buildup that surrounds a traditional release of a TV show. Since Netflix refuses to release any ratings data on its programming, there is no way to tell how many people have actually viewed its original series, or how many debut episodes were viewed as compared those later in the season.

If Amazon can keep viewers enthusiastic about its new shows for weeks and months on end, it might be able to beat Netflix at its own game.

Why Amazon, bucking the Netflix strategy, won’t release its original series all at once