Lord of the Rings New Line
The world of TV streaming is becoming a global war fought with hundreds of millions of dollars thrown at rights-holders, casts and crews in order to ensure you have the most eyes on your screen at any given time.
Netflix has been grinding away at this from the start, and as one of the first entrants, remains the largest and the most flush with content. Disney was in a great position to begin with, given their past purchases of Star Wars and Marvel, which alone can sustain an entire streaming network.
But Amazon? It’s a bit trickier for Amazon.
While Amazon Prime has been around for a long while, only recently have they really seemed to start to make an impact with their original offerings, the most successful of which has been The Boys. But that’s not enough for them. They want their own Marvel or Star Wars or Game of Thrones flagship, and they settled on one of the only universes big enough to qualify, Lord of the Rings.
But it cost them. In addition to the rights deal itself, Amazon has reportedly budgeted $465 million for the first season of a Lord of the Rings series, an eye-popping number by any metric, and the highest anyone has ever heard of in the industry. It wasn’t too long ago that $15 million an episode for the final season of Game of Thrones seemed unheard of, but we’re well past that now.
Game of Thrones HBO
Amazon thinks that it’s going to be worth it, however. Speaking to THR, Amazon Studios’ Jennifer Salke laid out the justification for spending that much on a single series:
“The market is crazy, as you saw with the Knives Out deal. This is a full season of a huge world-building show. The number is a sexy headline or a crazy headline that’s fun to click on, but that is really building the infrastructure of what will sustain the whole series. But it is a crazy world and various people on this Zoom, mostly Bela and me, have been in bidding situations where it starts to go incredibly high. There’s a lot of wooing and we have to make decisions on where we want to stretch and where we want to draw the line. As for how many people need to watch Lord of the Rings? A lot. (Laughs.) A giant, global audience needs to show up to it as appointment television, and we are pretty confident that that will happen.”
Needless to say there is a tremendous amount of pressure on this series to deliver. It needs the biggest audience an Amazon Prime series has ever seen by a wide margin, and while it’s certainly likely that will happen, given the universe being used as the source material, something does seem risky about throwing that much money at a show and assuming it can buy quality. It can buy production value, certainly, and clearly with that budget, the show can afford sets and costumes and digital effects that surpass every LOTR movie there’s been so far. But can it buy a good script, good performances, compelling characters? That remains to be seen, and that’s the main reason rival IPs like Marvel or Game of Thrones work so well, not the budgets alone.
We’ll see how this plays out in the coming years, and if Amazon’s massive money warhead can make the impact they believe it can.
Subscribe to my free weekly content round-up newsletter, God Rolls.