Amazon takes on Netflix in battle for internet TV dominance
AMAZON has commissioned a series of big-budget, web-only shows as it takes on Netflix in the battle to capitalise on the growing appetite for watching programmes on smartphones, tablets and internet-enabled televisions.
The online retailer is producing at least 11 pilots - starring big names such as John Goodman and Bill Murray – which will be shown to the public from this spring and then either made into series or shelved, according to the audience reaction they get.
The pilots will be shown free on a service called Amazon Instant Video, with viewers given a chance to input feedback on the shows.
In Britain, the pilots will be also be available on LoveFilm, the internet video service owned by Amazon.
The completed series, however, will only be available to LoveFilm subscribers in Britain and Amazon Prime subscribers in the US.
The pilots, mainly focusing on comedy and children’s programmes, include Alpha House, which stars Goodman, with a cameo from Groundhog Day star Bill Murray.
"I'm always worried I'm going to be in a YouTube Video,” said Goodman, who made his name in the 1980s television series Cheers, but went on to star in Hollywood films such as The Big Lebowski.
He added: “But this is just the same as a TV set — full production values, great director, good technical people."
Other pilots include Onion News Empire, a television news satire, and a musical comedy called Browsers.
"I think the distinction between a regular TV show and an online TV show will soon fade away," said Roy Price, director of Amazon Studios, the unit making the pilots. "It just makes sense that if you're trying to decide what TV show to make, it might be a good idea to ask customers which one they like."
Last month, Netflix launched House of Cards, starring Kevin Spacey. It invested $100m in the remake of the classic British series, making all 26 episodes immediately available to subscribers, who could sign up free for one month.
Todd Yelin, Netflix's vice-president of product innovation, said the project had done “excessively well”.
Whilst declining to give actual viewing figures, he said it was the most-viewed show ever on the internet video service, and had done “better than our wildest dreams".
Microsoft is also known to be producing its own series, while Google, Apple, Intel and Twitter are reported to be considering their own projects.
Richard Holt Telegraph.co.uk