Ama­zon moves into con­tent cre­ation with two stream­ing come­dies

The Washington Times Daily - - Life - BY DER­RIK J. LANG

CUL­VER CITY, CALIF. There’s a new kid on the block at Cul­ver Stu­dios.

In­side a tow­er­ing sound­stage, just around the cor­ner from where such tele­vi­sion come­dies as TBS’ “Cougar Town” and Show­time’s “Episodes” have been filmed, another pro­duc­tion is in full swing. A set de­pict­ing a high-tech, two-story of­fice is host­ing a boozy party scene for “Be­tas,” a com­edy about a quirky crew of app creators in Sil­i­con Val­ley.

But un­like its neigh­bor­ing pro­duc­tions, the new se­ries will likely never air on TVs. In­stead, it will stream on them, in ad­di­tion to many other de­vices. “Be­tas” is one of the first orig­i­nal se­ries from Ama­zon, the online re­tail gi­ant who’s tak­ing a cue from Net­flix and Hulu by pro­duc­ing its own shows that will only be avail­able on Ama­zon In­stant Video, a con­tent ser­vice for pay­ing mem­bers.

“In the old days, I re­mem­ber if you were a film ac­tor, you didn’t do TV,” said Ed Be­g­ley Jr., who stars in “Be­tas” as a goofy, pa­tri­ar­chal in­vestor. “That wall came down many years ago. Now, I think the same thing is hap­pen­ing on the Web. This isn’t just some­one with a Handy­cam film­ing some­thing that looks like pub­lic ac­cess TV. This is a real show.”

Ama­zon’s move into con­tent cre­ation is another click in the evo­lu­tion of online video, le­git­imized ear­lier this year by the suc­cess of “House of Cards,” the po­lit­i­cal drama from online stream­ing ser­vice Net­flix Inc. star­ring Kevin Spacey. That show was nom­i­nated for a best drama Emmy, along­side the likes of AMC’s “Break­ing Bad,” which ul­ti­mately nabbed the prize.

Over the past year, Ama­zon.com Inc. has bol­stered its stream­ing video li­brary be­yond typ­i­cal movies and TV shows by lock­ing down the ex­clu­sive stream­ing rights to such buzzed-about se­ries as “Down­ton Abbey,” “Fall­ing Skies,” “Jus­ti­fied” and “Un­der the Dome.” The Seat­tle-based com­pany is hop­ing to now build hype — and at­tract sub­scribers — with its own shows.

Ama­zon’s foray into orig­i­nal pro­gram­ming kicks off with Fri­day’s de­but of the po­lit­i­cal com­edy “Al­pha House,” fea­tur­ing Mark Con­sue­los, Clark John­son, Matt Mal­loy and John Good­man as se­na­tors who live to­gether.

Mr. Good­man, an act­ing vet with a seem­ingly ubiq­ui­tous pres­ence on the big and small screen th­ese days, didn’t no­tice much of a con­trast be­tween “Al­pha House” and the other TV pro­duc­tions he’s worked on.

“The only dif­fer­ence was that we could curse very heav­ily, but that’s the only dif­fer­ence,” said Mr. Good­man. “We have a fan­tas­tic stu­dio in Queens and lo­ca­tions all over New York City sub­bing for Wash­ing­ton, D.C. I ac­tu­ally know noth­ing about how they are go­ing to present this [show]. It was so much like a reg­u­lar tele­vi­sion show. I just don’t care.”

Ama­zon re­port­edly spent $50 mil­lion to pro­duce “Be­tas” and “Al­pha House,” along with three chil­dren’s shows, for Ama­zon Prime, a pre­mium ser­vice that pro­vides free two-day ship­ping, stream­ing video and other perks to mem­bers who pay $79 a year.

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