Amazon Is Spending An Insane Amount Of Money On Shows No One Is Watching

Amazon has yet to develop a mega-hit for its streaming platform, even Rings of Power doesn't come close to the numbers Amazon's competitors are pulling in.

By Robert Scucci | Updated

rings of power

Despite Amazon’s monolithic reach in the tech world, they’re certainly lagging in the world of video streaming, according to The Hollywood Reporter. This seems to be the sentiment across the board and largely the reason why Amazon hasn’t had a breakout hit like Netflix’s Stranger Things, or HBO’s Game of Thrones. In other words, although Amazon has deep pockets to fund media projects, nobody is really engaging with the content, which is surprising, to say the least.

Amazon is seemingly suffering from having too many cooks in the pot, according to a veteran producer who expresses confusion over what kind of mark the Amazon brand wants to make with its content initiatives. An unidentified showrunner has also voiced frustration over the fact that if Amazon truly wanted to hit it out of the park with a flagship series, they absolutely have the resources to do so, but the company keeps getting in its own way.

A large part of Amazon’s problem is that they are not truly an entertainment company, but rather a retail company that is trying to break through with a show that is distinctly an Amazon property.

While Amazon has certainly seen success in the form of The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power, the series is a far cry from HBO’s Game of Thrones. Not only has the series not taken home any major awards (aside from a SAG-AFTRA nomination for stunt ensemble), the numbers are quite low in terms of viewers actually completing the series.

Though the head of Amazon Studios, Jennifer Salke, cites internal discussions involving the show being mostly positive, domestic viewership numbers indicate only a 37 percent completion rate, which is considered to be far below average.

They say that vague goals yield vague results, and this seems to be the case with Amazon Studios. A former executive stated that Vernon Sanders, who is head of television for the studio, is a competent, approachable, and kind person, who relies heavily on input from focus groups rather than having any true vision of his own. They went on to state that it’s hard to tell what kind of programming Sanders is passionate about and to truly know where he stands on a project during its development phases.

In addition to not having a clear vision for what kind of programming Amazon could produce itself, they’re spending a ton of money on acquisitions, most notably the $8.5 billion purchase of MGM studios. Former creative executives have voiced their frustration by saying, “We don’t want to buy from outside studios.” Then packages come, and they buy everything that comes through the door, and our development is thrown out.”

Citadel, an Amazon Prime series

And this seems to be the case with shows like Citadel, a show that cost $300 million to produce but was plagued with production issues when the Russo brothers (owners of AGBO production company) replaced showrunner, Josh Appelbaum. Once again, at the behest of focus groups, there was a need to change horses in the middle of the stream to appeal to a broader audience with the intent of making the series an international success.

This resulted in an egregious amount of money being spent on development for a show that we truly don’t know whether it will be a success at this point.

At this point in time, it certainly seems as if Amazon is having trouble getting iconic series lifted to the point where there’s clear brand recognition with their streaming platform. Though there is certainly an intention to have a breakout series that’s definitively recognized as an “Amazon show,” the lack of coordination and true vision behind their many projects keep them from reaching this goal. Until somebody truly vouches for a series based on gut instinct, rather than input from focus groups, it may be a while before we see a compelling series that truly puts Amazon’s media initiatives on the map.

Though we will just have to wait and see, Citadel is slated for an April 28, 2023, release, and it may very well be the series they’re looking for. Given the budget that went into producing the series, let’s hope the completion rate is higher than what Rings of Power is currently pulling.