Media Moves

Coverage: What it means for Amazon to win a Golden Globe

January 13, 2015

Posted by Liz Hester

Amazon won a Golden Globe for its show “Transparent” about a transgender man, signaling it’s a real contender in the original entertainment space. Netflix and other subscription services have been making inroads with viewers. So what does it mean that one of the nation’s largest retailers is now beating others?

Bloomberg Businessweek had this story by Mark Glassman:

When Jeffrey Tambor won a Golden Globe Monday night for his starring role in Transparent, it was the first time had received a thank-you shout-out from the stage of a marquee Hollywood award show: The online retail giant, Tambor said, is his “new best friend.” Amazon was no less pleased. Even better, winning a Golden Globe for best television comedy for Transparent instantly afforded its Prime Instant Video platform newfound credibility as a venue for first-rate original programming. The win for best TV comedy, in fact, let Amazon surpass Netflix in the race for streaming-video awards: House of Cards has so far won Golden Globes only for its stars, including last night’s win by Kevin Spacey.

Will the exposure and fancy dress accolades doled out by the Golden Globes help lure new Prime customers? There is evidence that the little statuettes can help. “Prestigious awards do aid in driving subscribers,” says Laura Martin, a media analyst for Needham & Co. “That’s what happened with Netflix, and we would expect that to happen with Amazon.” The chart below shows just how the award-winning effect coincided with gains in subscribers for Netflix, although it is difficult to say how many new customers signed up to watch House of Cards or Orange is the New Black, which won lesser honors at last year’s Primetime Emmy Awards:

Deepa Seetharaman and Piya Sinha-Roy wrote for Reuters that the award lends credibility to Amazon’s programming:

“It gives Amazon a way to go to the TV industry and say ‘you do a show with us, you can win awards too,’ whereas it couldn’t say that a week ago,” said Eric Deggans, TV Critic at NPR.

More importantly for Amazon, awards are a new calling card for Prime, its $99-a-year club known for two-day shipping, which the company sees key to growth.

On Thursday, Amazon will unveil 13 new pilots for programs that, like Transparent, will only be available for free on Prime.

In some cases, Amazon has pitched Prime primarily as a video service, a shift in marketing from the focus on shipping.

In a September survey conducted by RBC Capital Markets, 10 percent of Prime members said unlimited instant streaming video was its most important feature, up from 7.9 percent in May 2013.

Jason Lynch wrote for Quartz that the award timing was perfect for Amazon:

The victory couldn’t come at a better time for Amazon, which is launching its fourth round of television pilots—13 new shows in all—on Jan. 15. Customers in the US, UK and Germany will be able to watch the pilots and vote on which should be picked up for a full season. Transparent could also be an especially lucrative win for the company if some of the millions of curious Golden Globes viewers decide to sign up for Amazon Prime, which is bundled with the company’s streaming video subscriptions. There are already an estimated 30-40 million Prime members in the US and 50 million worldwide.

As Roy Price explained to me last summer, “It could be great for us, and it gives the part of the audience that hasn’t tried the shows yet an idea that people are responding well to these shows.” Plus, the two Globes wins now catapult Transparent and Tambor squarely into this year’s Emmy race.

The Financial Times story by Matthew Garrahan that Netflix was outspending Amazon on original content:

Netflix has outspent Amazon, investing $3bn on content in 2014. About 90 per cent of that was on licensing movies and TV shows produced by other companies, although Netflix plans to shift more of its budget to its own series over time.

Ted Sarandos, Netflix’s chief content officer, said last year that the group would increase its spending on original programming “pretty dramatically”.

Netflix spent $100m on the first two series of House of Cards and has received critical acclaim for other shows such as its prison drama Orange is the New Black.

Amazon and Netflix have led the charge in original production, using streaming technology to take their programming direct to consumers. Streaming has upended the traditional TV model, with many younger people “cutting the cord” on expensive cable or satellite packages.

While the creation of new original content is making some TV executives sweat, it’s a win for consumers looking for alternatives and ways to not purchase cable. Amazon is used to being the biggest and the best at delivering services, meaning that Netflix should watch out. While it might be the leader in streaming content now, it’s tough to compete with all the services that Prime offers, including award-winning TV shows.

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