“American Gods” is among the most downloaded shows on Amazon Prime Video in the U.K. this year, along with Starz pirate series “Black Sails,” U.S. network offerings “Lucifer” and “Parks and Recreation,” and animated children’s series “Peppa Pig,” the tech giant said. “The Grand Tour” also made the top 10, and the company has high hopes for the car show’s second season, as well as for other original programming in Europe and beyond.
Amazon released data on the popularity of its offerings in Britain ahead of Friday, its declared “Download Day,” when it expects more content to be downloaded and stored for offline viewing by customers than any other day of the year. The downloading feature, which the company introduced in 2013 and for Apple and Android phones and tablets in 2015, ahead of arch-rival Netflix, has been “one of, if not the most, successful features we have ever rolled out,” Prime Video’s Europe boss, Jay Marine, told Variety.
“The most downloads we see are on a Sunday; people commute and are planning for the week, and maybe they binge-watched over the weekend,” Marine said. “The lowest level is on Saturdays. Lots of time downloads are in batches; you can start multiple downloads and it cues up. You don’t have to [trigger] one at a time – that was important.”
Marine said that, on average, customers who use the download feature take eight episodes or movies a month.
Though notoriously shy of revealing stats, Amazon released the data in the run-up to Download Day, which coincides with the busiest travel week of the year in Britain, as school holidays get underway and families head off on summer vacations. The peak viewing time for the downloaded content will come during people’s vacations, not during the journey there, Amazon said. It forecasts Wednesday, Aug. 2, as the high point for consumption.
While Neil Gaiman’s “American Gods” is new, several other shows in the Top 10 are older, which Marine attributes to new customers still discovering the full lineup. “It’s great to have ‘American Gods’ up there. That show definitely exceeded expectation, and we’re doing another Neil Gaiman project, ‘Good Omens,'” he said. “With the other content, the service is growing, and if you’re new to the service, it’s all new.”
For movies, Marine said that Amazon pushes hard for first windows, and the closer to theatrical release the better. “Having those new releases as soon as you can on your streaming service after they’ve been in theaters…does matter,” he said, “while with older titles it’s about being selective and smart about the data and what our customers are viewing, and what we think they want based on that.”
Amazon’s mega-buck motoring series, “The Grand Tour,” made the download list in Britain, and has been Prime’s biggest show around the world. “When we launched our global service it instantly became our biggest show globally,” he said. “It was one of those cases where it was a big bet for us in terms of the money, but we always talk about making bold bets and I would say, if anything, it was one of the safer ones because we knew what we were getting, and they delivered.”
Amazon says there were more Prime sign-ups on the day the motoring series launched than on any other day aside from its promo-fest Prime Day. The company forked out a huge sum for a three-season deal, and the second season will launch later this year with everything back on track after presenter Richard Hammond emerged remarkably unscathed from a horrible crash.
“We’re all thankful Richard is OK. That was scary,” Marine said. “He’s back – he has had knee surgery and is recovering from that, but the schedule is on track. We had some buffer in there for the guys, so it’s going to work out.”
The Amazon exec won’t be drawn on what rev-heads will see in Season 2, but confirms that it will be released again in weekly installments, not all at once in binge-style. “The show has a [studio] audience and is shot weekly, so it sets up that way,” Marine said. “We like it. It works.”
Big budgets and big ideas are part of the plan for originals. “Scale doesn’t bother us. It’s about whether you have the right project and the right talent, and if it’s big, its big,” Marine said. “Any time I can spend more money to make Prime better, we love that investment.”
Like Netflix, Amazon won’t share viewing data, even with the stars of its shows, including irascible “Grand Tour” star Jeremy Clarkson. What Marine does share are his thoughts on international original programming. It has wrapped its first Indian original, has a local version of “The Bachelor” on its service in Japan, and has drama series “You Are Wanted” in Germany. With Georgia Brown having been hired away from FremantleMedia as head of European originals, there is more to come in Europe.
“The key for a streaming service is having shows that are unique. That could mean being big in scale or like ‘Transparent,’ which wouldn’t have been on broadcast TV and was beautifully executed and an important show,” Marine said. “We want to take those type of creative risks, so when we find storytellers who have an idea and are passionate, we want to help them and then get out of the way and let them make that.”
What Europe won’t see yet, unlike the U.S., is original movies. Also, as a wide-ranging retailer, unlike Netflix, Amazon wants to drive people to its e-commerce services and sees Prime Video as a vehicle for that.
Marine said there was enough room in the marketplace for Amazon and Netflix and a few others besides. “There’s not going to be 10 big winners, but the reality is multiple companies will be successful,” he said. “Think about how much we charge: It’s not much compared to traditional pay TV, so in the OTT world people are going to afford multiple subs and still pay less than [they] have historically. That’s why we don’t worry about it being an either-or [situation].”
Amazon Prime Video, Top TV Downloads in the U.K. in 2017 to date:
- “American Gods”
- “Black Sails”
- “Parks and Recreation”
- “Peppa Pig”
- “Sneaky Pete”
- “The Grand Tour”
- “The Man in the High Castle”
- “The Walking Dead”
Amazon Prime Video, Top Movie Downloads the U.K. in 2017 to date:
- “David Brent: Life on the Road”
- “Seuss’ The Lorax”
- “Eye in the Sky”
- “John Wick”
- “Now You See Me 2”
- “The BFG”
- “The Bourne Legacy”
- “The LEGO Movie”