Amazon moves into content creation with two streaming comedies
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.