It’s been a cloud-filled week in tech, with Amazon getting a new CEO who’s been running AWS, and Microsoft stock vaulting upward on quarterly earnings driven by Azure’s success.
But, now that Andy Jassy is tabbed to bring his cloud-computing management skills to run all of the world’s biggest e-commerce company, we have just one question: what TV shows does he watch?
This matters, more than a bit, because one of Amazon’s most prominent side hustles is Prime Video. Just today, Prime Video scooped up 10 Golden Globe nominations (Small Axe, Borat Subsequent Moviefilm) . That tied it for second, with Hulu, for the most nominations. Netflix led the way with a goggling 42.
Unlike Netflix or Hulu, however, Prime Video is available, for free, if you’re one of the 150 million or so households that subscribe to Amazon Prime. Many people do so for free shipping of all the stuff they buy online.
But about half of those subscribers, various studies have suggested, also use their free Prime Video access to a wide range of often excellent shows (beyond the Globe nominees, also Sound of Metal, The Vast of Night, The Boys, Jack Ryan, I’m Your Woman, Sylvie’s Love, One Night in Miami, Hanna, Tales from the Loop, and many more originals).
Prime also has stocked its library with plenty of licensed old sitcoms and movies, a wide range of comedy specials, a sequel to Eddie Murphy’s Coming to America, even live streams of some NFL games.
And big as Prime Video is, it’s only one big part of Amazon’s confusing cupboard of “TV” initiatives. There’s free, ad-supported channel IMDb TV, all the subscription Channels it sells and hosts, everything that’s happening on Twitch, even the social-video content of influencers trying to sell products on the site.
And don’t forget all those Fire TV-enabled devices, whose broad popularity puts them just barely behind Roku as the most popular streaming-video interface in America.
In short, Andy Jassy is going to be one of the most important people in Hollywood. Like it or not, the Cloud Guy will influence (or perhaps better, can influence) what tens of millions of TV fans watch, and what thousands of TV creators make.
No better example of that power comes from Jassy’s soon-to-be-predecessor, who once stomped into the Prime headquarters in Los Angeles to declare that he wanted to know where Amazon’s version of HBO’s Game of Thrones was.
At the time, as Bezos’ was pointedly suggesting, Prime’s offerings tended toward the small, smart and a bit precious, an outgrowth of the programming strategy of Prime’s first chief, Roy Price. But those shows, some of which scooped up critical acclaim but not many viewers, weren’t doing much to attract and keep Prime subscribers, which was, after all the point of the whole service.
Soon enough after, Price’s successors had committed $250 million for the rights to a spin-off series set in the Lord of the Rings universe, with another $250 million committed to actual production. That show hasn’t yet arrived, though Amazon says it’s on the way.
Bezos also is reportedly a huge fan of The Expanse, a complex Solar System-spanning space opera with particularly deep political and scientific underpinnings thanks to its roots in a series of novels by James S.A. Corey.
The series ran for three seasons on NBCU’s Syfy Channel, was cancelled, then picked up by Amazon in part because of Bezos’ affection for it. Prime since has run two more seasons, and ordered a third, possibly final, season, though producers Alcon Entertainment “remain very committed to the IP.”
Both those tidbits suggest that running a gigantic e-commerce company, and the industry’s biggest cloud company, (not to mention, in Bezos’ case, The Washington Post and a commercial space company) doesn’t mean you can’t also watch a little telly now and then. Presumably, we’ll start to find out what Jassy’s into, if anything, soon enough.
Jassy takes charge under what appears to be a rather tight leash, not surprising in that he’ll be only the second CEO in Amazon’s 27-year existence. He doesn’t take over until summer, giving Bezos time to still change his mind.
More to the point, the first CEO remains as executive chairman, even if Bezos’ last few years of a historically expensive divorce, tabloid scandal, building a new relationship (all this not necessarily in that order) and new Los Angeles mansions have provided plenty of gossip-mill grist that has surprised even Amazon loyalists.
Jassy, according to a Business Insider profile, has a conference room called “The Chop,” a place “where ideas, and sometimes employees, go to get chopped down to size.” Lovely.
Like Bezos, Jassy manages by memo rather than PowerPoint. As a writer, I can get behind that. Bezos has even extolled to shareholders the virtues of memo-based management in, yes, a memo (technically, an investor letter, but same diff).
These aren’t just any old office memo, he said. They’re edited, re-edited, set aside for a couple of days, then edited again, taking a week or more to generate a six-page document that centers an entire corporate conversation.
If that sounds, however, like the equivalent of “notes” from network suits to a producer or show runner, one of Hollywood’s great hazing rituals for creative talents, it could suggest that Jassy will fit right in among the new moguls now running the town.