MIPCOM: Amazon Focusing on "Quality," Not Quantity, in Global Expansion

Fleabag Still_1_embed - Publicity - EMBED 2019
Courtesy of Amazon

"He’s sort of been objectified in a way that I used to talk about actresses and female characters being objectified," says Waller-Bridge of Andrew Scott’s Priest on Fleabag.

The streaming giant is preferring to make fewer, better global shows, such as ‘Fleabag,’ two top executives tell the Cannes market.

While Netflix's global expansion has been explosive —the streaming giant is available in more than 190 countries — Amazon Prime, the world's number two SVOD platform, has been more circumspect. Amazon is currently in “only” 20 territories and, so far, has focused its international growth on a handful of major countries — including India, Japan and the so-called big 5 of Europe: the U.K., Germany, France, Italy and Spain.

And while Netflix has plowed billions into the production of international series — its non-U.S. commissions now exceed its domestic ones — Amazon has taken a more bespoke approach, focusing on a handful of high-profile series with a local flair: from Fleabag and The Grand Tour in Britain to spy thriller The Family Man in India.

“We don't do a ton of originals, maybe 5 to 10, 15 at most in each territory,” said James Farrell, head of international originals at Amazon, speaking at the MIPCOM international TV market in Cannes Monday. “It's not a quantity play, it’s a quality play.”

Georgia Brown, director of European originals at the streamer, said algorithms played less of a role in steering the company's production decisions than was generally imagined.

“We don't have a big red data button that tells us what shows to make,” she joked. Instead, Brown said, the company spent more time on “talent development,” working with local writers and producers to develop shows that have the potential to be “big breakouts” in their territories.

“We've found if a show is very specific, very local and it is well made, it will travel,” said Farrell.

The Marvelous Ms. Maisel is our most popular show in China. That certainly wasn't what we expected when we made what is a very specifically American show.”

Farrell said Amazon was looking to produce genres or formats that targeted neglected or ignored audiences, noting that the company's decision to commission a Japanese version of reality show The Bachelor was driven by a desire to draw more female viewers to the service.

When it comes to renewing, or canceling, original shows on its service, Farrell said three metrics are key: How many subscribers sign up specifically to watch a new series, how many actually watch it and how many watch a show through to the final episode. “The completion rate is key,” he said, noting that Amazon would recommission a show with low viewership figures if it had a high completion rate.