- The fantasy series “The Wheel of Time” is a much needed hit for Amazon Prime Video.
- Amazon has committed to making more sci-fi and fantasy genre content.
- Its strategy differs from Netflix in a significant way, as Netflix focuses on localized genre content.
Amazon’s new fantasy series, “The Wheel of Time,” has quickly become a hit for Prime Video.
The series, which debuted November 19 and is based on the series of novels by Robert Jordan, was Amazon’s biggest series premiere of the year, Amazon Studios head Jennifer Salke recently told Deadline.
While she didn’t provide specific viewership numbers, third-party data supports the notion that the show has found a global audience.
It was last week’s most “in-demand” TV series in the world across all platforms, according to the data company Parrot Analytics, topping HBO’s own fantasy hit, “Game of Thrones.” The company measures audience demand, which reflects the engagement with or desire for, or overall popularity, of a series.
It’s a big win for Prime Video after Disney+ surpassed it as the No. 2 platform in original TV demand share in Q3, behind just Netflix, according to Parrot Analytics.
It also bodes well for Amazon’s upcoming “Lord of the Rings” TV series, which it spent $US465 ($AU655) million on for just the first season, including $US250 ($AU352) million for the rights, according to The Hollywood Reporter.
“Amazon Prime Video has lagged in demand for digital originals in 2021,” Parrot Analytics insights analyst Wade Payson-Denney said. But he added, “‘The Wheel of Time’ gives Prime Video some much needed momentum heading into 2022.”
Amazon has found success with other genre TV, like the comic-book series “The Boys” and the sci-fi series “The Expanse,” of which the final season debuts this month. It’s also nearing a deal for the rights to a “Mass Effect” TV series, based on the hit sci-fi video-game franchise, Deadline reported.
“You will see us continuing to invest in fantasy genre of all kinds,” Salke told Deadline.
Amazon ordered 15 live-action sci-fi and fantasy shows in 2019 and 19 in 2020, according to the data firm Ampere Analysis. The number dipped this year with 11 commissions so far, but based on the success of “The Wheel of Time” and Salke’s comments, we could see the number rise again in 2022.
Amazon’s push into sci-fi and fantasy will help it compete with its biggest competitors, Disney+ and Netflix. The former is leveraging its Marvel and “Star Wars” IP, while the latter has teams dedicated to identifying IP that it can build into hit franchises or events. The second season of Netflix’s hit fantasy series “The Witcher” debuts this month after a two-year hiatus.
But Netflix and Amazon’s genre strategies differ in a significant way, and it reflects how Netflix is far ahead of the streaming competition in the race for international hits.
63% of Netflix’s upcoming live-action sci-fi and fantasy slate is being produced outside of the US, according to Ampere Analysis, with the biggest source of that in South Korea, the home of its biggest TV series ever “Squid Game.”
More than 86% of Amazon’s upcoming genre slate are US productions, according to Ampere Analysis.
“While Netflix is pursuing greater localization across the board, Amazon is relying on high-end, high-concept sci-fi’s exportability to drive subscriber interest in its key global markets,” said Alice Thorpe, an analyst with Ampere Analysis.