Here's what Jeff Bezos says he's looking for in an Amazon show

Jeff BezosSpencer Platt/Getty ImagesAmazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos.

Amazon Studios is having a great year.

In January, it was the first streaming service to win a Golden Globe Award in the “Best Series” category, taking home the trophy for “Transparent,” a dark comedy about a father who comes out as transgender.

Jeffrey tambor transparentAmazonJeffrey Tambor plays a late-life husband-turned-transgender woman on Amazon’s ‘Transparent.’

Additionally, Amazon has signed a deal with Woody Allen for a full season of a 30-minute TV show to be streamed exclusively for Amazon Prime, and Ridley Scott is producing the original Nazi drama series, “The Man in the High Castle.”

Jeff Bezos, founder and CEO, is heavily involved with Amazon Studios and which projects are greenlit.

Bezos is on the cover of the new issue of The Hollywood Reporter talking about his strategy for Amazon shows and how he decides what gets made.

“You can have the best technology, you can have the best business model, but if the storytelling isn’t amazing, it won’t matter,” Bezos tells THR in an interview. “Nobody will watch. And then you won’t sell more shoes.”

Jeff Bezos The Hollywood ReporterThe Hollywood ReporterJeff Bezos on the cover of this month’s ‘The Hollywood Reporter.’

When asked what he is looking for in an Amazon show, Bezos explained to THR:

Is this something we can imagine is someone’s favourite show? One way you can think about TV is you can say, ‘I want to make something that millions and millions of people are going to watch.’ If that’s your starting point, you paint yourself into a corner and you often end up with homogenized, uninteresting content. If you say, ‘Let’s hire the world’s greatest storytellers. Let’s encourage them to take risks,’ then you’re going to end up with a remarkable story, and remarkable stories always find an audience.

As for how many viewers account for Amazon’s audience, the streaming site doesn’t reveal viewership numbers and Bezos won’t say.

I don’t think it’s useful,” he says. “I don’t want our team obsessing over ratings. I want them obsessing over quality. If they can pull that off, we will have millions of happy viewers.”

And despite his demanding position as Amazon CEO, Bezos still finds time to work with Amazon Studios on producing original shows.

“I’m involved very significantly when final decisions are made; so after the pilot process, when we sit down to review all the shows and figure out what to say yes to,” he tells THR. “But I’m really a reverse-veto person. I would never say no to something the team wanted to do, but I might say yes to something the team didn’t want to do. You want there to be multiple ways to get to ‘yes’ because you want to encourage risk-taking.”

With Bezos located in Seattle, it can sometimes be tough for him to remain in constant contact with such an L.A.-based industry, but he makes it work with his team flying to Seattle specifically for greenlight meetings.

“We sit in a big conference room and we’ve all watched all the shows, and we’ve got all the data [from users who have watched the pilots and given feedback] in front of us,” he explains of the process. “You absolutely have to be willing to make something that’s going to be remarkable. You’ve got to take some risks.”

Once the hard work is done and people tune in to Amazon’s shows, it’s time to sit back and wait for the accolades.

The first season of Amazon’s hit “Transparent” won two Golden Globes in January, and a slew of other awards.

While Bezos isn’t obsessed with bringing home awards, he does says, “I think they’re important to the creators. The audience also likes it. Is it the only thing that matters? No, but it’s very good validation of the quality of the work that the team is doing.”

Transparent golden globes jeffrey tamborJerod Harris/Getty Images for Amazon Studios‘Transparent’ stars Kathryn Hahn, Judith Light, Jeffrey Tambor, Amy Landecker, and Melora Hardin with show creator Jill Soloway at the Golden Globes.

Read Bezos’ full interview with The Hollywood Reporter here.
Disclosure: Jeff Bezos is an investor in Business Insider through hispersonal investment company Bezos Expeditions.

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