Amazon Studios Is Committed to Local Productions and “Curated” Content Slate, Finds MGM Deal “Hugely Exciting,” Head of European Originals Says

Amazon Studios Is Committed to Local Productions and “Curated” Content Slate, Finds MGM Deal “Hugely Exciting,” Head of European Originals Says

Amazon Studios will never be about pure content volume, but a “slow and steady, very curated approach,” Georgia Brown, head of European originals at Amazon Studios, told a television industry gathering in Scotland on Wednesday.

“We’ve always had a very different strategy,” Brown said, noting head of Amazon Studios Jennifer Salke’s focus on a “really curated” slate.

Asked about the takeover of MGM, she said: “The buzz among the executives on the ground is hugely exciting.” But Brown added she had few details to share about the Amazon acquisition of the studio. “I am not across that” and busy enough with her duties, she said.

Speaking at the Edinburgh TV Festival, she also highlighted: “We are able to be super-curated and really think about the content we are commissioning.” And she added: “We want to commission a multitude of different genres.”

Since 2018, Amazon has spent more than £1 billion ($1.18 billion) on TV, films and sports content in the U.K., and the global streamer’s programming strategy has focused, among other things, on diversifying its slate. That has included an expanded slate of non-English-language, locally sourced programming.

Brown also talked about expanding the European team to around 250 staff over the past year, including in Scandinavia and the Netherlands, to add new production hubs. “All our audiences were crying out for local content” when the company entered Europe a few years ago, even though they love Amazon’s U.S. content, she said.

“There are certain shows we see more travel ability in,” Brown explained. For example, “LOL: Last One Laughing has been a … hit for us,” which has launched and succeeded in various markets.

Asked about a recent increase in subscription prices for Amazon’s streamer despite rising inflation, she said it was the first since 2014, adding that the company’s goal was providing “maximum value” to customers and that she felt they were generally happy with what they are getting from the firm.

Brown also shared that when she started her job, she felt that while everyone was focused on high-end dramas, “the big opportunity in streaming was unscripted,” which “has worked so well for us.” The next phase of learning is about learning what works in drama, with much of Amazon’s slate in Europe launching in the next six to 12 months. “If anyone knows, please let me know,” she concluded.

Asked about how Amazon assesses viewership and reception of content, she said “every show has a different benchmark,” other than traditional TV networks. Brown explained that sometimes the actual reaction, the desire to try out a genre or type of programming and other factors can all play into decisions.

Discussing upcoming originals she is particularly excited about, Brown mentioned an adaptation of German author Wolfgang Holbein’s The Gryphon, about three outsiders who discover the Black Tower, a world where the Griffin, a monster, has abused other denizens of the world for centuries. She also mentioned an upcoming Spanish sci-fi movie.

Overall, she said Amazon is currently open to all sorts of ideas given it is still in an “experimental” stage.

After Brown, members of her team took to the Edinburgh stage on Wednesday, namely Dan Grabiner, head of originals at Amazon Studios, Johnny Lewsley, U.K. scripted originals lead, Daisy Mount, development executive for U.K. scripted originals, Fozia Khan, development executive lead across unscripted, and unscripted executive Harjeet Chhokar.

Brown and her team discussed what it takes to get commissioned by Amazon and how the streamer’s executives like to work with creators to shape shows out of the U.K. to make them distinctive.

In March, Amazon closed its $8.5 billion acquisition of MGM. “With the talent at MGM and the talent at Amazon Studios, we can reimagine and develop that IP for the 21st century,” Amazon founder Jeff Bezos had said after the deal was announced. MGM’s library includes more than 4,000 film titles and 17,000 TV episodes, including intellectual property like the Rocky/Creed franchise, The Silence of the LambsThelma & Louise, and TV shows like The Handmaid’s Tale and Survivor. It also includes MGM’s stake (shared with Eon Productions) in the James Bond franchise.

The Wall Street Journal recently reported that head of Amazon Studios Jennifer Salke and senior vp Mike Hopkins have been searching for a senior movie studio executive. Amazon Studios has held conversations with such Hollywood leaders as Netflix film head Scott Stuber and former Paramount Pictures executive Emma Watts, according to the report.