Roy Price Says Amazon Will Do More Straight-to-Series Orders

Jose Mandojana
Roy Price

The vp of Amazon Studios in Edinburgh says 'Game of Thrones' is for TV what 'Jaws' was for movies, calls sports rights a "good opportunity" and expects more talent deals, like one struck with Robert Kirkman.

Amazon will order more shows straight-to-series as the pilot system it has been using slows down the process, Roy Price, vp of Amazon Studios, told the Edinburgh TV Festival on Friday.

"It’s been helpful," he said about the pilot system. "It’s always helpful to get feedback," including from asking customers. But he said that "pilots are going to have to play probably less of a role going forward," explaining: "The reality is they sort of slow you down." Instead of the 12-18 months process to get a show on air, it takes two years with a pilot. 

"The reality of the marketplace is it is competitive, and often you have to go to series," Price said. So from a timing and competitive perspective, "I think there will be fewer [pilots] than before," he concluded. "We have a few pilots in the works now, but I think there will be fewer than before. We still have customer feedback, but we'll probably have fewer pilots for sure."

Asked about the peak TV debate, Price said: "I don't find that the world is running out of ideas," adding that there are "a lot of great writers and actors."

The content chief of the e-commerce giant's streaming video service also argued that "Game of Thrones is to television what maybe Jaws was to movies in the ’70s." He said it set an example for the industry. In that sense, he argued making bigger and more cinematic shows, similar to Game of Thrones, will be the way to go in the sector. Said Price: "Bigger worlds, bigger budgets is what I’d expect across the industry."

He said a "normal" drama these days costs $4 million-$6 million per hour, but added that some cost twice that.

Asked if Amazon wants to get a big show like Game of Thrones, he said: "Everybody wants to have one or more of one of the top five shows, top 10 shows. That's really what matters most." He added: "We're going to get one of those shows or more than one."

Amazon Studios earlier this month unveiled a two-year deal with The Walking Dead creator Robert Kirkman and his Skybound Entertainment, which exited their overall deal with longtime home AMC. Under the pact, Kirkman will develop TV projects exclusively for Amazon's Prime Video platform, which will also have a first-look deal with Skybound. 

The deal came days before prolific showrunner Shonda Rhimes, the hit maker behind ABC's Grey's AnatomyScandal and more, jumped ship from ABC Studios to Netflix under a multiyear deal. Both the Kirkman and Rhimes deals were seen as signs that the streaming video giants were strong players in the battle for talent in Hollywood. 

Asked if such deals with top creators would continue, Price said Friday: "That's inevitable. We are going down that road." He joked that this means it is a good time to be a writer-producer or an agent. Asked what shows he would have liked on Amazon, he mentioned The Handmaid’s Tale and The Crown, but added that "you can't get them all." 

The Amazon Studios boss also said the company would look at more live sports rights. "People love sports," he explained. "That’s a good opportunity." Added Price: "It’s broad, it’s distinctive, people care about it."

About the system of pitching, he said people shouldn't go around town to pitch, but instead record one pitch and send a video link to all possible buyers. Price said that system would be "much more efficient."

Asked about Donald Trump in the White House and people's current interest in politics and what it means for Amazon's content strategy, Price said: "I think people are conscious of politics," but "you can't be too topical or too responsive to the moment," because shows take a while to come out and "we want these shows to last." If a show is too specific to the time, he argued it would be better suited for radio, sketch comedy or the like.

Price was interviewed by outgoing Channel 4 chief creative officer Jay Hunt, also giving a sneak peek of the upcoming return of The Grand Tour.