Perhaps proving only that you can’t beat free, Amazon Studio’s first entry into originals, political satire “Alpha House,” has ranked as the top TV series on the e-retailer’s paid and subscription video services since the second and third episodes debuted Friday.
Amazon — like Netflix — does not release specific viewing metrics. But Amazon does rank video titles by popularity, and “Alpha House” instantly topped the TV series category on the Amazon Video chart after the site made the second and third eps available free for anyone to watch in the early morning of Nov. 15.
The real test for Amazon’s originals strategy will begin when it releases new episodes of the 11-part series on a weekly basis, starting this Friday. Those will be available only to members of Prime, Amazon’s free two-day shipping program that costs $79 per year (as well as Amazon’s LoveFilm service in the U.K.).
Amazon spurned the “binge-viewing” strategy favored by Netflix, which has released all episodes of a series at once. Amazon’s sampling strategy is to let viewers “try out the shows and get to know the characters,” according to studio chief Roy Price — and, he hopes, convince some number of them to sign up for Prime.
By following traditional TV’s weekly spacing of eps, Amazon wants customers to “chat about the shows and build up anticipation,” Price says.
“Alpha House,” penned by “Doonesbury” creator Garry Trudeau, stars John Goodman as a GOP senator who bunks with three other Republican pols in a D.C. townhouse. Amazon Studios will bow its second original series, Silicon Valley comedy “Betas,” on Nov. 22 with the first three eps also free for all to view.
According to Amazon, among TV shows available on Prime Instant Video, “Alpha House” is currently more popular than shows including “Falling Skies” and “Downton Abbey.” Across all video selections, only “Skyfall,” the latest in the James Bond franchise, has been viewed more.
Amazon has heavily promoted the free episodes of “Alpha House” on its homepage and video subsite, as well as on its Instant Video apps and through an online ad campaign.
In another difference with Netflix, Amazon released pilots of 14 shows earlier this year for free and incorporated user feedback to decide which ones to greenlight. Amazon Studios also owns the shows it’s creating, or has co-production deals for them, whereas Netflix has cut licensing deals for TV series, specials and documentaries.