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Amazon Studios Wants Big Comedies, Ready to Pay $4 Million for Pilots: Sources

Amazon Studios, its appetite whetted for half-hour comedies, is now looking to fund a big-budget, high-profile laffer to anchor its next wave of original series — and rival Netflix for attention-grabbing properties.

The studio has indicated pilot budgets for its next comedies will be between $2 million and $4 million, but that it would be willing to go higher for a larger action-adventure comedy, according to industry execs familiar with the plans. Rather than traditional sitcoms, Amazon Studios is looking for cinematic half-hour shows; a hypothetical example would be a series reboot of a blockbuster movie franchise, per sources.

An Amazon Studios rep declined to comment. “We don’t comment on rumors,” the rep said.

With such budgets, Amazon would be spending in the range of what broadcasters pay for top-shelf comedies as opposed to the more modest budgets SVOD players have spent to date on half-hour originals. The focus on comedy also would differentiate Amazon from Netflix, which has focused more on one-hour dramas, although Amazon Studios is clearly interested in smart dramas as well.

Word of the company’s bigger eyes for comedy comes after the debut of Jill Soloway dramedy “Transparent,” (pictured, above) which has drawn critical praise for its nuanced portrayal of transgendered people; and season two of Garry Trudeau’s “Alpha House” starring John Goodman set to debut later this month.

Amazon Studios recently greenlit Steven Soderbergh’s comedy “Red Oaks” along with drama “Hand of God” to full series, while it ordered additional scripts of Whit Stillman’s Americans-in-Paris comedy “The Cosmopolitans.”

Over all, Amazon expected to spend more than $100 million on original productions in the third quarter, CFO Tom Szkutak told investors in July.

At this point, Amazon Studios wants to have fewer projects in development, while upping the number that are going into production, sources said. On an annual basis, the company’s target is to fund four to six pilots and three to four series orders.

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