THB #102: MGM/UAmazon
(Early Discolure: MGM/UA ads to follow…)
The monkeys are throwing their poop at the walls in excitement over the close of the Amazon purchase of MGM/UA. They are so excited, they don’t know what to do with themselves.
There are those who were sure that the Biden Administration would put a stop to it. They were wrong.
There were those who were sure that Amazon would target Paramount even before this deal closed. They were wrong.
There are those who just have to say something to look like they have something to say. I heard 2 of them today explaining how they stood near Bezos at bar at a Golden Globes party a few years ago (weirdly, I was there too) and how they got a vibe from him that is informing their opinions of what comes next out of this merger. Not kidding.
Here is my little take…
In the last 2 years, DeLuca and Abdy did their thing. Mark Burnett, for much longer, has done his thing. And they made the previously moribund company warm enough to make a purchase look reasonable while also having some success (and failure) on specific films and tv shows.
It’s hard to get a handle on what was from the old movie regime and what was from the new. If you really break it down, the ones that belong to DeLuca and Abdy are Cyrano (with Bron and Working Title and Universal internationally), Licorice Pizza, which was saved from Anapurna falling apart with Bron’s support, and House of Gucci, which was also done with Bron money and international distribution by Universal.
Respect, Candyman, Bond, and Addams Family 2 were both greenlit by the previous regime.
And by the way, Anapurna has 2 new productions in production or post, neither of which is going to be with MGM/UA. Both are at Universal, though time will tell.
The company’s first 2022 release, Dog, landed last month and they have 8 more in various degrees of production with 2022 dates on them, the 2 big ones being George Miller’s Three Thousand Years of Longing (picked up) and Creed III.
MGM TV appears to only have 10 or series currently in production or on hiartus before continuing production.
So what does all this mean?
Well…….. it’s your basic 2-part Hollywood question. Part 1 is, “What does Amazon really want?” Paer 2 is, “Can Amazon execute a plan based on those desires?”
This brings us back the oft-repeated, “Anyone who tells you what Amazon intends here is guessing.” Because the purchase of MGM/UA is a classic example of beong too much to be nothing and too little to be a decisive event in the history of a company the size of Amazon.
There is some value to the post-1984 MGM movie library. And IP rights, And the same for the studio’s TV library and current shows. But it doesn’t put Amazon on the same track as Netflix, Disney, and WarnerDisco.
It doesn’t seem that Amazon is buying talent, as AT&T did, betting on Zaslav and Discovery with him. DeLuca and Abdy and Burnett are very valuable talent. But what question do they really answer?
In the theory that Amazon is really buying more eyeballs to guide to their core businesses, Sunday Ticket, even at an insane annual price tag of over $4 billion, would be 100x more effective than MGM/UA in that regard. (And I’m not really exagerating… and it may still well happen.)
Anyone trying to sell the idea that Paramount is next for Amazon is selling you a bridge. Amazon has never bought anything for $35b-$35b and if they were going to, why would they buy a smaller version of that company ahead of time?
But what, oh what, is the strategy?
The thing is, Amazon knows what they want it to be. They aren’t just throwing billions around.
But they are not telling. And I haven’t heard a guess that really sounds right yet.
A lot of this could be their AVOD play, led by the please-stop-calling-it-that imdb.tv. It just plain fills their racks with 10s of thousands of hours of content that is meant to be just good enough for passive watching with commercials. Don’t be surprised when the Flacid Scumbag Former President gets an Apprentice Channel running 24/7.
It could be a purely defensive posture, picking the small library company that they thinks fits their needs best before someone else could pick it off.
Or it could be that their strategy is actually to let it become what it wants to become, within reason… which seems to be how the movie side of the operation has evolved since just before Ted Hope was adios-ed.
The one thing that is true of Amazon is that they have a lot of money and don’t have to rush into anything until they are ready. So I think there is a very good chance that we are having this same conversation in the late summer/early fall. Either that or expect fast action to clear out the MGM/UA talent pool in a hurry - see: Disney/Fox - and letting the people already at Amazon start putting the goods in the windows… not so worried about how quickly they will sell… trying more experiments… and then, when Sports gets settled… making some decisions.
A couple people reading this may know what is actually happening. A couple. None of them in media.