As one of the most famously competitive companies in the world, e-commerce giant Amazon.com (NASDAQ:AMZN) never hesitates to press an advantage.
Countless examples abound in Amazon's core e-commerce business, its grinding e-book pricing practices, and its arms race price war in cloud computing. However, perhaps one of the most interesting story lines unfolding within Amazon presently is its improbable, yet outsized, success in also evolving into a full-fledged streaming video powerhouse.
As it endeavors to replicate its outsized success with Transparent, the company recently announced its upcoming slate of fall TV pilots.
Inside Amazon's fall TV lineup
In a recent press release, Amazon announced an ambitious and intriguing mix of upcoming pilots it will debut in the coming months. The coming content onslaught includes both half-hour and one-hour shows encompassing a mix of genres and an impressive amount of creative talent. The half-hour shows will include the following:
- Highston -- A comedy about a young boy with an overly active imagination, Highston was written by Bob Nelson, writer of Nebraska. The pilot will be directed by Jonathan Dayton and Valarie Faris of Little Miss Sunshine, with comedian Sacha Baron Cohen also attached as an executive producer.
- One Mississippi -- A dark comedy that follows comedian Tig Notaro's return home after her mother's passing, One Mississippi is directed by Nicole Holofcener and features a star-studded set of EPs including Louis C.K., Tig Notaro, and Diablo Cody.
- Z -- A biopic of the famously troubled Jazz Era belle Zelda Fitzgerald, Z will be powered by creative talent including the writers of The Killing, producers Pam Koffler and Christine Vachon of Still Alice, and director Tim Blake Nelson of Anesthesia.
Looking beyond its half-hour lineup, Amazon's one-hour pilots will include:
- Edge -- This adaptation of George G. Gillman's bloody post-Civil War western was written by Lethal Weapon creator Shane Black and Tales from the Crypt writer and director Fred Dekker.
- Good Girls Revolt -- A portrayal of the culture clashes of the 1960s within the context of a broadcast newsroom of the day, the pilot was written by Dana Calvo, who also wrote the short-lived 2012 series Made in Jersey.
- Patriot -- Shamelessly leveraging current affairs, political thriller Patriot follows a U.S. intelligence officer as he works to prevent Iran from gaining a nuclear weapon. It was reportedly written by Steven Conrad, who also wrote the screenplay for The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, among others.
Switching back from entertainment writer to investing mode, it's important to note that these shows will help determine, in part, the success of Amazon's Prime Streaming amid a sea of competitors who now all fully grasp the importance of original content as the cornerstone of a modern streaming service.
Amazon catching Netflix?
Amazon's fall TV lineup will feature fewer names than the 13 pilots it debuted at the start of the year. However, after garnering huge acclaim with hit comedy series Transparent, Amazon's content-development team appears to have largely erased the gap between it and Netflix's early original content lead.
For those scoring at home, Amazon Instant Video won five Emmys to Netflix's four in the most recent round of awards, although they both badly lagged emerging streaming for HBO, which claimed 43 total Emmys for its laundry list of acclaimed shows. Rest assured, though, Amazon will use the same data-driven content-scoring strategy that has allowed it to quickly notch a number of critical early-series wins.
Equally interesting from an investor's perspective is the discussion of relative value, and which streaming service is likely to see market-share gains and losses in the months ahead. Amazon, always the competitor, dropped the price of its Prime subscription, which includes free annual shipping and a host of other perks, to $67 for one-full year of the service to celebrate its Transparent wins at the 67th Primetime Emmy Awarda. The deal was available on Sept. 25.
Obviously, if the exact shows matter to a given consumer, he or she will migrate to the service that offers a specific show. However, for those simply looking for an affordable entertainment option, there's a very real case to be made that Prime now offers consumers far more all-in value that Netflix.
While the global competition for streaming dominance heats up going into the fall, Amazon appears to have pulled ahead of nemesis Netflix in a few critical ways.