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Selling to Amazon TV: Can This Be a Good Deal?

Selling to Amazon TV: Can This Be a Good Deal?

Hulu, Crackle, Netflix, YouTube — it was only a matter of time before Amazon jumped on the original TV series bandwagon. The retail giant is launching a new department of its Amazon Studios division that will focus on generating comedy and children’s series ideas to run on Amazon Instant Video.

If it’s slipped under your radar, Amazon Studios was launched to create/crowdsource a slate of original film ideas it hopes to eventually get into production — basically, you upload your script, where it’s reviewed by staff and/or the site’s users, who give feedback and can make revisions of their own if you choose to make the project public.

Amazon gets an exclusive 45-day window to option your work for $200,000, they can extend their window and choose your film for their “Development Slate” for $10,000, and they have a first-look deal with Warner Bros. The division has yet to set the out-of-date Hollywood world on fire (you can see the 15 projects they have in active development here), which may be why it’s being expanded into TV series.

Amazon’s looking for 22-minute pilot script for comedies or 11-minute pilot script for children’s shows. They’re looking to pick one new project a month for $10,000 to add to their slate to be audience-tested — you’ll get $55,000 if they decide to go to series with your work (no guarantees you’ll be included in anything beyond providing the pilot script), plus toy and t-shirt licensing percentages and other royalties.

Is this a good deal? By any network standard, no, but the kinds of projects Amazon is looking for are unlikely to be the kinds able to make their way up the Hollywood ladder. Despite the transparency the site is aiming for, there’s an inevitable sense of squirmy discomfort to any kind of “sign over your rights first, then we’ll decide if we want to pay you for them” scenario. It’s difficult to evaluate Amazon Studios initiatives with any kind of seriousness until they actually get a project into production and we’ll see how their user-feedback model works out and whether it will actually equal people willing to plop down money to see the final product.

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