Amazon Prime Video has had a presence in Europe for a number of years now, but its regional originals boss Georgia Brown says it is finally “off to the races” with dedicated content and business affairs executives on the ground — not to mention the forthcoming production of one of television’s most ambitious originals to date.
Speaking on the final day of the virtual Edinburgh TV Festival on Thursday, Brown said, “In the early days of [Amazon Studios] in Europe, producers had to work with legal and [business affairs] in LA, but it’s a different set of rules and legalities there that producers had to get through. And it’s been a huge learning. Now, we’re finally at the point where we have truly local teams on the ground and we’re off to the races.”
While Brown is not overseeing the relocation of Amazon’s “Lord of the Rings” series from New Zealand to the U.K., she described the move as “fantastic news.”
“We’ve talked a lot about investing into the U.K. infrastructure and it cements our place here. Will continue to invest heavily. I’m overjoyed the production is coming here.”
Echoing her boss, Amazon Studios head Jennifer Salke’s bet on an accelerated movie output, Brown said her initial focus was only television but she has since expanded into film as well because of the huge subscriber demand.
“My original remit was TV… but we realized audiences come in and give us precious time for series, and then when they [are done], what they’re tending to watch are movies,” said Brown, describing the switch to a movie in between box sets as a “palette cleanser” for viewers.
The service is not necessarily looking for “Palme D’Or or Goya award winners,” said Brown, but rather action and adventure movies that audiences can “engage with, be satisfied with, then go back to big, juggernaut series.”
Amazon now has content heads in the U.K. (Dan Grabiner), France (Thomas Dubois), Germany (Philip Pratt), Spain (Maria Jose Rodriguez Perez), Italy (Nicole Morganti), Netherlands (Nijhof Jacomien) and the Nordics (Karin St Jarne).
As for the thematic through-line between the Amazon Prime Video experiences across Europe, Brown says that Salke has “instilled in us, in our DNA, that the experience globally has to be the same. And that’s the quality bar. [Someone] must come in to every show and see there’s a consistency.
“That, plus our personality,” added Brown, who suggested that Amazon shows maintain an “element of joy” even while tackling tough topics.
The former Fremantle executive said the global streamer has “really upped our game” in the sporting arena, where unscripted series around major franchises sit alongside a growing stable of key sports rights such as the European Premier League and the French Open (Roland Garros).
Meanwhile, asked about Amazon’s $8.45 billion acquisition of MGM, Brown said the deal would “deliver much more content to the customer.”
“I’m hugely excited by it,” she said. “You look at the catalogue they have, you look at their IP. Fingers crossed it means really positive things for all of us.”
Brown also talked up the service’s investment in new talent, noting that Amazon has empowered first-time writers to take the reins on big projects. The executive said she is passionate about new and “untarnished” voices who can shed new light on familiar territory for U.K. viewers. “As a consumer I want different angles. Yes, the same stories, but told from a different viewpoint.”
The executive pointed to Italian original movie “Anni da Cane,” which features a large cast of largely unknown actors. Calling it a “big statement” that Amazon has chosen not to go with household names, Brown claimed that the film “has every chance of going on and becoming a global hit like ‘Lord of the Rings.'”
Amazon is also recruiting a new head of diversity, Brown revealed. “We’re learning a lot from our peers… It will be that person’s role to work with us and put in place a robust DEI strategy,” she said, noting that having representation in mind was “part of [her] team’s DNA.”
Elsewhere, Brown did not shut down a question about whether the company might purchase studio space in the U.K. as the major studios and streaming rival Netflix have done. The company has delivered shows out of studio spaces in Leeds and is also investing in various training schemes to upskill local crews. And as for a physical footprint via a space of their own, she said, “We’re being very deliberate around our choices and where we want to go.”