Will the Lord of the Rings TV Show Be Amazon’s Coup d’Etat?
Amazon has thrown its hat into the ring of serialized drama, following on from the huge success that Netflix has experienced since 2013, and that of its own direct-to-streaming shows such as The Man in the High Castle and Sneaky Pete. The media empire is reportedly investing $1 billion into a TV show based on Lord of the Rings. The scale of the production – $250 million for the rights and $750 million to produce six series – shows that Amazon is serious about its position as a digital streaming service and ambitious to reach higher.
Amazon’s TV Strategy is Fairly Risky
Amazon’s TV strategy has changed as a result of the acquisition. Their original goal was to create a reliant empire, with Amazon Studios content streamed on Amazon Prime, incentivizing viewers to engage with other Amazon products. Taking such a gamble on LOTR shows they are diversifying their strategy to compete with other streaming giants. The competition could be the reason for the development of the huge series. Amazon’s offering thus far doesn’t compete with Netflix’s Stranger Things or HBO’s Game of Thrones, so it needs that huge series phenomenon that will give it credence as a streaming platform. Compare Amazon Prime’s 63 million subscribers to the 100 million on Netflix or the staggering 130 million opting for HBO.
Given that Amazon reportedly spent $4.5 billion on content for TV and film in the past year, devoting this solely to one gamble of a series is a fairly risky strategy. However, given the expansive nature JRR Tolkien’s series which spans the entire continent of Middle Earth, interests are already piqued. Indeed, the original trilogy of films (The Fellowship of the Ring, The Two Towers, and Return of the King) totalled over $1 billion in revenue between 2001 and 2002. The prequel series, The Hobbit (The Hobbit, The Desolation of Smaug, The Battle of the Five Armies) starring Martin Freeman as Bilbo Baggins did similarly well, with a gross of slightly under $1 billion. If the figures stand up for Amazon’s punt on the franchise, then they could expect to make their money back and leave with a gross. The Lord of the Rings series definitely has legs to be a worthy investment for Amazon as a content creator.
Lord of the Rings Spinoffs Still Going Strong
Indeed, the merchandise of the fantasy series continues to attract fans. A steady stream of LOTR themed video games has been released since the inception of the series – including a console version of each of the major films and even an eclectic Lego Lord of the Rings in 2012. Indeed, the game Lord of the Rings: War in the North even takes a look at what else was happening in Middle Earth during the timeframe, which could inspire the content of the new TV series. Smartphone users can engage with the Lord of the Rings trivia app. There is even a Lord of the Rings online slot available for fans of the series to continue their engagement with the characters and themes of the fantasy epic. For those fans ready to go the extra mile, Hobbiton Tours offer film location tours of the LOTR series and The Hobbit – if you’re willing to trek out to experience the scenery of New Zealand where filming took place.
Where Will the Series Focus?
There has been a revolution as far as TV goes – the bigger budget shows are moving away from the traditional networks, the traditional network stipulations on content, and the traditional network structure and formula for how seasons and episodes should run. Instead, streaming through channels such as Amazon Prime and Netflix has taken over. With series developers aware of how lucrative streaming is as a broadcasting tool, TV looks set to have an interesting makeover.
Tolkien created an entire “legendarium” of works based on Middle-Earth, some encompassing the same realm as LOTR, so the content for the series could be pulled from other titles such as The Silmarillion, The Adventures of Tom Bombadil and Other Verses from the Red Book, or The Tale of Beren and Lúthien. Alternatively, the estate of Tolkien could work to piece together fictional versions of Tolkien’s world, taking creative licence to produce something completely new and therefore more likely to reap in excited viewers. In the mythopoeia Tolkien created, there are countless story threads that could be picked up.
Disney and Apple as Competitors?
In August of 2017, Disney announced that it is pulling all content from rival streaming services to produce their own streaming service. Given its own roster of content plus everything acquired from LucasFilm, Marvel, and Pixar, the streaming service will already have queues of fans ready to subscribe. Even Apple is getting involved – hiring producers from The Crown, Breaking Bad, and the man responsible for the Channel 4 acquisition of British viewer-magnet The Great British Bake-Off. Netflix will no doubt continue their success, with several high profile shows set to return although there have been some high profile flops – Altered Carbon, The Cloverfield Paradox, and Bright didn’t perform as well as Netflix would have liked or expected. For such a streaming giant, the occasional flop won’t do too much to harm the credibility or cash-flow for the company, however.
With no information regarding the content of the show, it is far too early to begin speculating casting. The series could follow up from either LOTR or The Hobbit series – in which past cast members could reprise their roles, or could be completely independent. Regardless of the outcome of the show, the acquisition is a positive PR move for Amazon. Whether you’re a LOTR fan or not, you have to admit that the attempt at such a high-stakes, high-budget production will be enough to ensure enough of a rolled out audience. Nearer the time of release, Amazon will need to ensure they act strategically to meld their new series in with the rest of their offering in a natural way. The opportunity could provide a greater revenue stream and help add another spoke in the continuing revolution of television.
Ultimately, despite Amazon’s lack of gleaming jewel in its crown, the fact that they can acquire a TV buy for $1 billion surpasses what the rival streaming services can do. They will continue their growth as a media provider, which has been a steady and natural progression over the past five years. The move works twofold: to give Amazon a hero product, and to show the rest of the world that it means business when it comes to video production. Given the huge fanbase of Lord of the Rings and the ways in which fans can interact with the franchise as it stands, there is no doubt that the series will allow the company to work towards their newfound objectives.