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MipTV: Amazon’s Roy Price on ‘Grand Tour’s’ Cost, Shows That Amazon Is Looking For

Digital service offers world premiere sneak peek at MipTV of action drama ‘Jack Ryan’

CANNES, France – Amazon’s Roy Price, one of the execs who seemingly holds the keys to entertainment’s future, strode onstage at MipTV on Monday dressed in a smart black biker’s jacket, black jeans and short cowboy boots.

His distinctive sartorial taste, closer to that of a creative than an executive, is already known. So was much of what Price said in his MipTV keynote address, a half-hour Q&A where the freshest element proved to be extracts from the upcoming hour-long action series “Jack Ryan,” showing author Tom Clancy’s character as a kick-ass young operative.

Still to be answered is exactly how Amazon’s global strategy will play out, especially against its biggest competitor in the streaming world.

“The key question is how Amazon Prime Video positions itself against Netflix: Will it pursue the platform strategy globally, bringing on more third-party content like Starz, HBO, as it does in the U.S., or the network strategy, becoming a premium channel, which is clearly the way Netflix is headed?” Ampere Analysis’ Guy Bisson said.

The platform strategy would benefit Amazon Web Services as the content fulfillment of platform partners is handled in the cloud by AWS, Bisson added.

Price, the head of Amazon Studios, passed on a question as to how much Amazon would be raising its content budget, in originals or acquisitions, from the estimated $3 billion in 2016. He was clear, however, about the metrics by which Amazon judged a show’s success: “We certainly pay attention to whether subscribers are engaging with the show and is it influencing people to stay subscribed, influencing people on the free trial to convert and become subscribers, or getting people into the trial.”

Price added: “If people are engaged with Amazon Prime Video, they tend to see the broad value and range of services and engage. If we get them there, that’s a win.”

The top two shows in most of Amazon’s 240 countries are usually automotive program “Grand Tour” and counterfactual drama “The Man in the High Castle.” “Those shows are bringing in and keeping customers and that’s a big area of focus,” Price said, defending “Grand Tour’s” unspecified but controversially large budget, saying the show is “actually efficient and good economics.”

Price also confirmed that Amazon will dive into local production, though he didn’t reveal any timetable or production volume targets.

Shows like “Grand Tour” have an international fan base, “but all customers are local. So you have to pursue a multi-local strategy where you seek out the great artists in each territory,” Price said, citing Amazon’s first German TV series, “You Are Wanted,” which posted Amazon’s biggest opening ever in Germany.

Driving engagement, Amazon’s prime focus is “the crème de la crème, the top five-to-ten shows in the world people are talking about in real life at lunch.” To get them, “you’ve got to go big-time and get people who do things differently and bring something fresh and different,” he said.

“Bigger doesn’t have to be dragons and spaceships,” Price added. “Maybe it’s being more real and contemporary and fresh, or maybe it’s bigger and more cinematic in 4k and HDR.”

“Jack Ryan,” produced by Paramount TV and Skydance Television, is currently in production and has shot in Tokyo, India, Canary Islands, Europe, and the U.S. “It’s got to the point where you can’t possibly visit all the sets, so hopefully everyone is working today,” Price joked.

In the show, Ryan (John Krasinski) is a young, strapping, desk-bound CIA analyst who is already adept at combat. In one scene screened at MipTV, Ryan does serious damage to a wall with an assailant’s head. He studies the communication patterns of a terrorism suspect, who Ryan realizes is on track to raise $9 million in eight days. “The whole 9/11 operation cost just $500,000. What do you think he can do with 2o times that money?” he tells a colleague.

Desperate to shut down the terrorist before he wreaks global damage, the CIA takes Ryan off his desk job and puts him in the line of fire. Kick-ass and kinetic, with a thundering soundtrack, “Jack Ryan” will be released on Amazon Prime Video probably in the first quarter of next year, Price said.

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