Why Amazon Should’ve Invested in Originals Over Legacy Libraries

When Amazon’s $8.45 billion deal was announced, outgoing honcho Jeff Bezos assured shareholders that the company was committed to “reimagining and developing the deep catalog of MGM.” Never mind that the library his company is purchasing is highly exploited, with a good many of its vintage titles, and even some new movies, already licensed to rival streamers like Netflix, HBO Max, Hulu and Paramount Plus.

I say forget more potential remakes, spinoffs and TV shows derived from the likes of MGM oldies such as “Legally Blonde,” “Pink Panther,” “Rocky” or any number of other aged franchises and classic TV shows — give me more original content! The excite­ment of such compelling new series as HBO’s “Mare of Easttown” and “The Undoing” or Oscar winners like “Minari” and “Nomadland” far outweighs what most retreads have to offer, in my opinion.

At breakfast last week, one of my journalist pals and I were discussing how we wished Amazon had allocated all of the billions it’s committed to spending on MGM’s library to hire top screenwriters, show­ runners and filmmakers who can produce a treasure trove of more spectacular originals.

Libraries are understandably attractive to com­panies like Amazon, which don’t have deep cata­logs of their own, so they can lure new subscribers and retain those they have to their streaming plat­ forms as a way to better compete with the Netflixes of the world.

“It’s now all about reducing the churn,” says Chris Kirk, a finance consultant with the Los Angeles­ based business advisory firm 8020. “It is worth these com­panies spending a lot of money on new content to drive the growth, but they need other content to keep subscribers there in the meantime. … You always need the filler.”

Still, the argument could be made that libraries like MGM’s aren’t as valuable as they were when they could be relied on to throw off hundreds of millions of dollars in annual licensing fees during the home video and DVD boom. Nowadays, media behemoths like Disney are “clawing back” a lot of the content that was previously licensed to others, suggests Kirk, and you’re certainly never going to see Marvel properties available to competitors.

“The value of libraries has shifted from DVD sales to streaming and subscribers,” says Kirk. “But if you don’t reach critical mass, you might have been better off licensing your content to the highest bidder.”

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