As Epix morphs into MGM+ today, its leader prepares to deliver the original expansion slate under Amazon’s ownership.
The service was completely revamped in October 2009 (as a joint venture between MGM, Paramount Pictures and Lionsgate) with the season 3 premiere of “The Godfather of Harlem,” which has become one of MGM+’s signature shows. done at the same time. Additionally, MGM+ Director Michael Wright said: variety The plan is to increase streamer volume to at least eight original series per year.
During an MGM+ session on Television Critics Assn last week. Press During his tour, Wright revealed development plans, including an adaptation of his MGM film “Hoodlum” by Chris Brancato (also the creator of “The Godfather of Harlem”). A take on John Wells Prods novel The Emperor of Ocean Park. The post-apocalyptic thrillers “Earth Abides” and “Ark” are also based on the book of the same name. Comedy “American Classic” starring Kevin Kline and Jon Tenney.
Other upcoming shows include the true crime documentary series “Murph the Surf,” the second season of “From,” and the six-episode limited series “A Spy Among Friends.” MGM+ has picked up the series “Hotel Cocaine” (also from Brancato) and has second seasons of “Rogue Heroes” and “Billy the Kid” in the pipeline. Also underway is Cirque: The Spider Society, set in the Spider-Man universe by showrunner Angela Kang (The Walking Dead).
“For most consumers, the decision to subscribe or drop is based on quantity, quality, and value,” says Steven Spielberg, who previously worked as a programming executive at CBS and Turner. said Wright, who served as CEO of Amblin Partners. “There are more movies on Pay One than many other premiums. but a newer and more robust library with other studio movies… If you know MGM, you love MGM, it’s a great gift that we have that name, but we We are obligated to surprise you with our storytelling, even in the context of this brand that is about to offer.
Wright has been president of Epix since 2017. In 2021, he also took on directing for MGM Scripted Television. Under the new structure, Light juggles multiple bosses. MGM’s scripted TV shows are now under the umbrella of Vernon Sanders, Head of Amazon Studios’ Television Division, led by Lindsay Sloan, reporting to Amazon Studios Chief Jen Salke. With plans to merge Amazon and MGM TV, announced in November, Wright will join MGM+ and MGM Alternatives, where he will oversee TV and Amazon Prime. Chris, who also reports directly to Blairton.
varietyIn September, we broke the news of Epix’s rebranding to MGM+.
The idea of reopening in a year that seems to be in the midst of this sort of industry course correction feels daunting.
I think everyone in this industry faces the same challenges. In that sense, the industry has always been a level playing field. But we think he has two distinct advantages. There was excitement of new things, and no one had heard of Epix. We didn’t have the resources to introduce it. So it’s not like we’re introducing a new product with a fairly empty shelf. We’re showcasing what we’ve had for the last 10 years, my group, for the last 5 years that have actually been stocked on the shelves. You have the power of the MGM brand. But I do believe that with the amount of marketing that we’re actually doing in the next three months, people will be introduced to something they’ve never seen before… this thing, the original series, and everything else. There are thousands of movies about These are high quality studio movies for $5.99. In a recession, we are value play.
How is Amazon supporting reopening?
I have never participated in a campaign like this before. So back to my days at Turner. We did some rebranding campaigns, which worked very well. But the Amazon team said on day one, “This is good. Let’s grow it. That means adding content, adding original series, building marketing campaigns. Marketing campaigns by design are , leans heavily towards what we think is the distinct brand identity of the service, which is an extension of MGM, and from a consumer perspective, I would say there is the Disney brand and then there is the MGM brand. argues…not a Hollywood perspective distorted by Hollywood history, but for consumers, MGM represents something to them.
Are you now able to access more data under Amazon?
yes and no. more access than ever before. But we don’t have full access just because we are a first party channel. The way they built this, they have Prime and Freevee and they also have a channel store. So we’re a channel they own, we’re on Amazon, we’re primarily in the channel store, which is a big part of their business. We have more data than before, but we take fairness very seriously, so not all of it is available. I can’t show you this. But I can show you this.
Given that you report to Chris Brearton, separate from Jen Salke’s team, how does the new structure work?
We are in the channel store business. I mean, I talk to Jen and Vernon all the time. Because it’s a big collective of people doing all the same things. And what you’re talking about is talent, there’s natural organic collaboration. It operates as a first-party channel on Lane.
Does it give you a little more independence?
My take on how Amazon Studios operates is that it gives a lot of people independence. They have a point of view on the content and are very focused on the people who own it. Jen, Vernon, they all know what we’re doing. And they are very supportive of it.
Will MGM+ see the first Amazon Originals?
If they’re making an original, they’re making sure they premiere on Prime. We have MGM Studios, which produced “From” and “Billy the Kid.” And it is now part of the Amazon Studios family. So there is already a natural kind of organic symmetry there.
In the past few weeks, many shows have been orphaned at other stores. Are you seeing any of them?
you see everything I remember picking up ‘Southland’ when I was at Turner. And I picked up TBS’s “Cougar Town”, which was out of print on ABC. There is no pride in having to grow and develop here. In the last week or two he hasn’t seen anything that replaces a show he’s already ordered or is preparing for the next.
Are you surprised by the cost of recent series?
I will answer like this. I’ve never had such issues with Epix or MGM+. I had enough money to make what I consider to be a pretty spectacular show. You don’t look at ‘The Godfather of Harlem’, ‘Billy the Kid’, ‘From’, ‘Belgravia’ and ‘War of the Worlds’ and say ‘they made it cheap’. They are all beautifully produced. I think I’ve learned how to make a really good looking TV cleverly. Co-creator, co-investor. I didn’t have that luxury, so you have different ways of doing it. Who wouldn’t want to have that kind of money to make a TV show? I sometimes envy budgets. But I don’t live in that space.
How are you preparing for a possible writers strike or other labor issues this year?
Plan ahead. The good news for us is that he used to do six scripted series a year, and thanks to Amazon, he can now increase that to eight. But even with the most thoughtful development, you can’t develop 100 scripts if you only make 8 script series per year. We can develop some options for every slot and stay ahead of it. I’m about to go Also, if you’re working within very specific budget parameters, you need a script up front. I need to get a production plan. We can’t afford to just give the green light to a show and hope for the best. So when a strike is imminent, excess preparation can help.
Do you think there will be big buzz in the TV industry heading into 2023?
I think we are in a period of transition. I think it creates a strong identity for the service — what is this service? What makes us different or different from others? — an ongoing story. And I think we’re in transition about how we measure success.