Can Woody Allen Help Amazon Beat Netflix?

AFP/Getty Images
AFP/Getty Images

At the Golden Globes over the past weekend Amazon Studios made a strong statement with its original series Transparent. The show’s two trophies represented the first major awards for an Amazon series and told the entertainment world that Amazon is very serious about building its Prime TV streaming service with the highest-quality entertainment television has to offer. The show is about a transgender person, played by Jeffrey Tambor, transitioning into a woman and was created by Six Feet Under’s Jill Soloway. The show took home the Globe for best comedy series and Tambor won for best actor in a TV comedy.

Amazon isn’t resting on its laurels after that big night. The company has just announced that legendary director Woody Allen has signed on to direct his first ever television show for the streaming service. The company has ordered a full season of what is currently called The Untitled Woody Allen Project, though details about the show such as what it will be about and its casting are being kept secret. Amazon says the show will be available to stream on Prime Instant Video next year.

“Woody Allen is a visionary creator who has made some of the greatest films of all-time, and it’s an honor to be working with him on his first television series,” said Roy Price, vice president of Amazon Studios, in the company’s press release. “From Annie Hall to Blue Jasmine, Woody has been at the creative forefront of American cinema and we couldn’t be more excited to premiere his first TV series exclusively on Prime Instant Video next year.”

Woody Allen added, “I don’t know how I got into this. I have no ideas and I’m not sure where to begin. My guess is that Roy Price will regret this.”

The director’s clout will certainly attract viewers, which is something that Prime Instant Video needs. A recent study from Consumer Intelligence Research Partners found that Amazon’s streaming video service gets less audience from its subscribers than Netflix or HBO Go’s competing services. That’s because most Amazon Prime customers get their Prime subscriptions to take advantage of free two-day shipping, not necessarily for the TV streaming service attached to it. CIRP found that only 40% of Amazon Prime customers had seen at least one episode of Transparent, while close to 80% of Netflix customers had seen at least one episode of that service’s popular original show Orange Is the New Black.

“Since HBO first identifies as a television network, it does not surprise us that HBO Go subscribers are the most frequent viewers of their proprietary programming,” said Josh Lowitz, partner and co-founder of CIRP. “In contrast, Amazon Prime primarily attracts members for its 2-day shipping. As the service for the lowest penetration for its proprietary programming, the Golden Globes for Transparent suggest that Amazon Prime customers miss some great, award-winning material.”

HBO Go’s figures were the highest, but traditional networks are being seriously challenged by streaming services for both viewership and now major television awards. Netflix’s Emmy wins for its original political drama House of Cards were only the beginning.

Amazon obviously plans to keep pumping out award-worthy material, which it hopes will attract enough attention to the streaming service that all those customers reaping the benefits of free two-day shipping will check out Amazon’s original shows when it comes time to sit down and watch some TV.

Follow Jacqueline on Twitter @Jacqui_WSCS

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