Who’s Watching the Amazon Pilots?

By Karen Fratti 

amazon-instant-video-logoIt’s been a week since Amazon launched it’s third ‘pilot season,’ with some noteworthy new content. There are five new shows to stream and vote for; this round, Chloe Sevigny and Adam Brody star in “The Cosmopolitans,” a Whit Stillman written show about expats in Paris that you’re either going to love or hate (there are good arguments for both sides here).

But whether or not the shows are actually good don’t seem to matter. The first two rounds of pilots, which included “Alpha House,” with John Goodman and “The After” by X-Factor creator Chris Carter, respectively, were interesting, but have you heard of them? Do you know anyone who’s watching them?

The content strategy and the crowd-sourcing must be working. According to a report by Variety this summer, Amazon is increasing their investments into original content. Growth in Prime memberships and overall streaming activity in other markets has risen as well, something Amazon attributes to their original content.

There’s something off about the process of green-lighting series based on a viewer survey that mainly asks if you have a Prime membership, your gender, and how likely you are to tweet or share your viewing experience.

amazonpilotsurveyIt feels more like voting for your favorite pie at a bake sale, even though those pies might cost over $100 million to produce.

Reactions on social media are also sort of ho-hum. There’s something about streaming content from Amazon that still feels too soon, like you’re the only person watching.

In the long run, as smart TVs saturate the market, their content strategy makes more sense. But on a desktop or a tablet, it doesn’t look like Emmy’s are coming their way anytime soon; not because the shows aren’t good — they are, like an apple pie, never terrible. Eventually with big stars, big money, and big data, they can hit the sweet spot.

Because with Amazon, we know they aren’t using the surveys to make their decisions about what pilots — and what talent — they’re going to work with. Instead of placating viewers with the perception of a choice, it might be more worthwhile if they’d surprise us.