Amazon Studios’ director of European Originals Georgia Brown told Edinburgh TV Fest viewers Thursday (Aug. 27) that the studio, with its topline team in place, is hitting the ground running.
In conversation with freelance journalist Emma Cox, Brown (pictured) laid out her content wishlist as the studio prepares to ramp up its original offerings.
“We want the same as everyone. We want the genres everyone wants but when we do them, we’re going to do some twists and tweaks to make them ours,” Brown said.
The studio’s European arm has launched some 30 originals on Prime Video, both scripted and non-scripted, with 25 more headed to the streamer in the next year or so.
Brown said the studio is looking to supersize more broadcast formats — pointing to the success of launching adaptations of Celebrity Hunted in Italy and Love Island in France — with a twist on the familiar.
“It was different, people were really surprised we would do something that was day and date. Not many streamers are doing live and we are, so it just opens up the pot of the kind of shows people can pitch to us,” Brown said of Love Island.
“We are a streaming service. So when people pitch to me, I want shows that are sticky. I want people to want to watch that next episode. A successful service for people like us is, people stay and watch the whole thing. So coming in and watching an ep and never coming back, not so successful. And Celebrity Hunted, particularly the way Endemol Shine Italy produced that, blew us all away.”
Brown said the studio wants “beautifully crafted, high-end productions,” and pitches should stand up to that bar. She cautioned, however, that a supersized format doesn’t necessarily need a supersized budget.
“Lots of people, when we say, ‘Big, bold, beautiful, distinctive,’ they instantly go to budget. We don’t mean big budget — I mean, we have a lot of big budget shows on our slate as everybody knows. But actually, a lot of the shows we’re going to talk about today are really not big budget, they’re big and bold and distinctive in a very different, creative way,” she said.
Though Amazon Prime Video’s audience spans the globe, Brown said the studio’s slate is “incredibly local.”
“Lots of people always come to us and assume, because we’re a global service, that even if they’re pitching me a Spanish original, it has to work globally,” she explained. “It doesn’t. It’s great when it does, but it absolutely doesn’t [have to]. When I commission in those territories, I need it to be local to that particular territory. The upside is if it travels but we’re not judging it on that.”
In 2018, Prime Video premiered Manchester City, the first docuseries in its ‘All Or Nothing’ sports franchise. Its newest instalment, Tottenham Hotspur, debuts Monday (Aug. 31).
“The access that we have here is really unrivaled and it plays into our wishlist of what we want,” Brown said. “For us, access documentaries tap into something that we’re always very keen on which is fanatical audiences.”
In response to a question about whether Prime Video’s slate is male-skewing, with titles like British auto series The Grand Tour, Brown said women are tuning in.
“When you drill into it, just because there are men in front of the camera it doesn’t mean it’s only men watching. Obviously, we don’t release our data, but anyone who’s looked at shows like Top Gear, for example, it’s very evenly split between females and males. There’s a lot of women out there that — surprise, surprise — like cars. I think it’s very stereotypical of people to say, ‘it’s about cars so women won’t watch’ or ‘it’s about football so women won’t watch,’” Brown said. “It’s all about the narrative and the emotional stories that you’re telling and how compelling those stories and characters are.”
However, Brown advised producers against pitching another car series.
As for areas the streamer wants to beef up, “We’d love more in the YA space and the unscripted world. Diversity and inclusivity is very important to us,” she said.
“I’d love to tackle real crime, but it’d have to be done in a way that’s unique and not been done when you compare it to what other streamers and broadcasters have done. Again, I think where real crime is appealing is [when] it taps into local stories which is exactly what we’re looking for. So we’re very, very open.”
COVID-19 AND DIVERSITY
Brown and her team have had to navigate COVID-19 restrictions across European countries such as Germany, France and Spain to get productions back up and running.
“COVID’s been devastating for the industry… It’s been the most unusual experience to work through of my entire career because it obviously hit like a bit of a bulldozer,” she said.
“We were having to comply with local law. We were also trying to lay out our own Amazon policies while this was going on, so you’re juggling between two worlds. We also have the American studios offering up their policies.”
Brown said the studio is planning for the new pandemic reality to last for another couple of years.
“We now are thinking that through when we greenlight shows,” she added. “We’ve continued to greenlight heavily throughout this process. We’re just having to rethink things a little bit, have backup plans where we haven’t had them before.”
On the subject of diversity and inclusion, Brown acknowledged the studio had work to do, but added it’s in a position to make changes.
“Because we’re a newer player, we can really think about how we imbed diversity and inclusivity not just into our commissioning slate, but into the fabric of our teams — the commissioning teams, the production teams, the finance teams, everybody — from the beginning,” she said.
“But it’s absolutely true to say we haven’t moved quickly enough, and that’s something I really want to rectify. It’s something I’m hugely passionate about, the team is incredibly passionate about… We have to have honest conversations. It’s so easy to get defensive. We haven’t done enough. We need to do more.”