In accordance with Amazon’s shifting originals strategy, the studio is prioritizing blockbuster content designed for global audiences over unique visions from independent artists. Jennifer Salke, the head of Amazon Studios, took the stage Saturday morning with co-heads of television Albert Cheng and Vernon Sanders and announced “Too Old To Die Young,” “The Romanoffs,” and “Patriot” would not be moving forward at the studio.
Salke first addressed Nicolas Winding Refn’s 13-hour crime noir, which seemed to fly a bit under the radar on Amazon after its Cannes premiere.
“Yes, we were happy with the show,” Salke said. “I was texting with Nic Refn this week.”
While Salke said she did not expect to pick up another installment of the limited series, the two maintain a good relationship and Amazon took Refn’s core audience into consideration when marketing the show. A reporter asked why he didn’t see the series on Amazon Prime’s homepage the week of release, to which Salke said, “We really made our push with our resources for it in Europe,” where Refn has a stronger fanbase.
Salke also said she doesn’t think there will be a second season of “The Romanoffs.” Matthew Weiner’s follow-up to “Mad Men,” which tracked the various descendants of a fictional, wealthy, Russian Royal family, was greenlit by former Amazon head Roy Price and had a high budget for an anthology series. Reviews were mixed (at best), and it didn’t make a dent on the awards circuit, including receiving zero Emmy nominations earlier this month.
Finally, the cult favorite “Patriot” was also put to rest at Amazon. After two seasons of strong reviews but little overall buzz, Steve Conrad’s wistful spy series will not be continuing on Prime.
“At this time, we don’t have plans for a new season,” Cheng said. “We are not planning a new season.”
The language indicates that Amazon could revisit that decision in the future, but that kind of non-committal cancellation has become the norm during the age of revivals, when a resurgence of popularity can strike at virtually any time. Conrad is currently working on the EPIX series “Perpetual Grace, LTD.,” starring Jimmi Simpson and Ben Kingsley. Given its strong reviews and the positive critical reception for “Patriot,” Conrad looks like a clear talent waiting for that breakthrough moment.
Amazon, meanwhile, doesn’t have time to wait — not as the streaming wars with Disney+, Apple TV+, and Netflix loom. Most of the streaming service’s announcements Saturday morning focused on blockbuster programs with broad appeal — a strategy shift in place since Jeff Bezos started searching for the next “Game of Thrones” in 2017. Its biggest bet is “The Lord of the Rings,” which cost upwards of $250 million just for the rights, and Amazon announced its creative team via a hype-heavy unveiling video. “Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan,” the globe-trotting spy thriller starring John Krasinski, released its Season 2 trailer. The big-budgeted fantasy series “Carnival Row” was also picked up for a second season ahead of its first season release (August 30), and, in a sign of the times, Amazon confirmed a slew of exclusive overall and first-look deals with talent like Lena Waithe, Blake Lively, and Connie Britton.
Similar to the major movie studios shifting away from mid-budget dramas in favor of finding the next big franchise, Amazon is prioritizing its blockbusters over indie visions. They’re also seeing success with that strategy: Salke said the most successful shows in Amazon Prime history all debuted within the last year, naming “Jack Ryan,” “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” Season 2, “Hanna,” “Good Omens,” and “Homecoming.”
All three of the canceled series were originally developed by ousted Amazon executive Roy Price and put into production before Bezos’ shifted Amazon Studios’ direction.