Amazon Studios VP Roy Price is making a habit out of making news at the Edinburgh International Television Festival, appearing for the third year in a row at the industry event. Today, he said that the company will do fewer pilots going forward, opting instead to order TV programs straight-to-series.
“The reality,” Price said, is that pilots “sort of slow you down… It’s another 10 months. Between sitting at a table saying that’s an amazing idea for a TV show and having a TV show on the air, it’s normally 12-18 months. But with a pilot it’s two years.”
He added, “The reality of the marketplace is it’s competitive and often you just have to go to series, both from a timing point of view and from a competitive point of view… We still have customer feedback, but will probably have fewer pilots for sure.”
Amazon today also said that Orlando Bloom has been set to star in Carnival Row, a fantasy drama it ordered straight to series. A year ago, the streaming platform had ordered a pilot but given the project’s scope, it opted for a full commission instead.
There will also be more deals with big talent akin to the one Amazon signed with Walking Dead creator Robert Kirkman. “I think that’s inevitable, we’re going down that road… It’s a great time to be a big writer producer or an agent,” Price said to laughs.
There may also be more live sports. “People love sports, it’s big, it’s engaging, it really motivates people, so I think that’s a good opportunity, Price said. He wouldn’t be led to say it will be a key part of the strategy, however. “I think it’s definitely an opportunity we’ll explore.”
Of The Grand Tour, Amazon’s expensive motoring show that helped launch its global rollout, Price said the series has done “really well for us. I would expect more down that road. That show has the scale that we’re looking for ideally… I would take four more of those any day.”
Talking more about what the future holds, Price referenced GOT. “Game Of Thrones to me is to me to television what Jaws was to movies after the 70s and making a certain kind of movie, of Hollywood not being sure what to do. Jaws and Star Wars came out and set an example. I think one thing that’s an example of is thinking out of the box and making it bigger and more cinematic and having bigger budgets. Bigger world, bigger budgets — that’s something I would anticipate throughout the marketplace.”
Asked if shows of that scale need to be a defining part of a platform like Amazon, Price said, “I think everybody wants to have one of the top 10 shows, one of the top five shows. That’s really what matters most. I think (Game Of Thrones) set a good example and has really gone above and beyond in terms of delivering a big world with high stakes and everybody gets behind it. I think as people focus on getting in the top five the top 10, I think some of the constraints will fall away — in terms of cast, who participates and how much you spend — that we’re going to get one of those shows or more than one.”
What about comedy? “On the one hand, it’s not a great time for comedy. The big dramas are driving the business for everybody. But a few years ago it was the opposite, so these things do evolve and just when everybody says it’s really bleak for comedy or really bleak for drama, that’s probably a good time to be thinking about that category… You never want to write anything off.”
What about the lament of too much TV? “I think there’s a lot of great TV. I don’t find the world is running out of ideas, so I’m not sure I relate to that — or maybe i don’t understand it. But I’ve heard it many times: We can’t make anymore peak TV. We’re running out of catering or something.”