When Amazon.com Inc. agreed to buy the MGM film studio on, it threw a spotlight on what has largely been an overlooked contender in the streaming wars.
Because many of Amazon’s video customers get the service as a freebie — it’s bundled with the Prime fast-shipping offer — the company often isn’t named as a streaming giant alongside the likes of Netflix Inc. and Walt Disney Co.
In terms of subscribers, though, Amazon is the second-largest paid streaming service in the world. Prime Video ranks behind Netflix, but well ahead of Disney+ and AT&T Inc.’s HBO Max.
Amazon lets customers buy Prime Video without the shipping deal for $9 a month, putting it in the middle of the pack of streaming rivals in terms of price. (A full Prime membership costs $13 a month in the U.S., or $119 a year.)
But despite its size, Amazon has only had a fraction of the hits of Netflix, which has attracted subscribers with buzzy shows such as “Stranger Things” and “Bridgerton.”
The MGM deal could change that. The acquisition brings more than 4,000 movies and 17,000 TV shows, including “Rocky,” “RoboCop” and “The Handmaid’s Tale,” under Amazon’s control.
The idea is to mine that intellectual property to create new hits. Mike Hopkins, senior vice president of Prime Video and Amazon Studios, says he’ll work with MGM to “reimagine and develop” the material — in other words, look for spinoffs, reboots and sequels of franchises like “Tomb Raider” and “The Pink Panther.”
For now, Netflix dwarfs Amazon in the so-called demand share of its original programming — a measure of how much viewers actually want to see it — according to Parrot Analytics. If MGM had made “The Handmaid’s Tale” for Amazon, rather than Hulu, it would be one of Amazon’s biggest hits, the firm estimates.
In the U.S., eight of the 200 most in-demand series since the beginning of 2020 belong to MGM, according to Parrot Analytics.
MGM’s James Bond franchise could ultimately be the biggest prize. But it may take time to pay off for Prime Video.
The latest movie in the series, “No Time to Die,” is still slated for a theatrical release this year — and that isn’t expected to change with the Amazon deal.