Football, flutes, and family: Amazon orders up 3 pilots

Amazon Studios will release another season of pilots for original half-hour shows early next year, aiming again to crowdsource content decisions and lure in Prime subscribers.

A shot from the show "Alpha House" of four characters walking down a hall
Amazon's original comedy "Alpha House" stars John Goodman and follows four misfit Republican senators who rent a house together in Washington, D.C. Amazon just greenlit three more pilots to be vetted by users. Amazon

For Amazon's latest round of pilots, viewers are in store for classical music, football, and dysfunctional family -- with dashes of sex thrown in to most.

After a first class of comedy pilots in April resulted in plans for the company's first five original series, Amazon Studios -- the entertainment production arm of the e-commerce giant -- Thursday said it has given the green light to produce three new half-hour pilots.

It follows an order for a handful of kids' pilots. In July, Amazon Studios said it would make five more original pilots for kids , after the first pilot season included three it chose to make into full series .

The new projects announced Thursday all have high-profile names attached. "Mozart in the Jungle" was written by Academy Award-nominee Roman Coppola, Jason Schwartzman, and Alex Timbers; "The Outlaws" was written by Jeremy Garelick of "The Break-Up" and Jon Weinbach; and "Transparent" was written and directed by Emmy Award-nominee Jill Soloway of "Six Feet Under."

Like its previous pilots, the latest will also be part of Amazon's strategy to crowdsource opinion about what shows to pick up. The pilots will be available exclusively on Prime Instant Video and Amazon's Lovefilm in the UK in early 2014.

Amazon is aiming to have a couple of pilot "seasons" every year for the public at large to check out and weigh in on. That, along with keeping up an ongoing discussion with customers about new content with tactics like previews for dedicated watchers, creates opportunities to keep viewers -- and potential Amazon Prime subscribers -- interested.

It's a different approach to winning subscribers than that of its biggest competitor in online streaming video, Netflix. While both of the tech giants leverage their troves of consumer-preference data to make content decisions, Netflix plumbs its data for types of program that hold appeal and then selects ideas for new shows that already exist elsewhere in some form -- be it a series overseas, a book, or characters from a movie. Netflix is partnering with producers so far on its originals, spreading the cost of the operations around but also limiting its ownership of the content itself. Amazon is typically the producer of its pilots and shows, giving it more licensing opportunity down the road.

Roy Price -- the head of Amazon's "Hollywood" arm, Amazon Studios -- said in a statement that Amazon is "thrilled to be working on these pilots with such talented creators with passionate visions for new shows," adding that the company is excited to hear what customers think.

"Mozart in the Jungle," based on the memoir of the same name by Blair Tindall, "is all about sex, drugs -- and classical music -- and shows that what happens behind the curtains at the symphony can be just as captivating as what happens on stage," according to Amazon's pitch.

"The Outlaws" follows a professional football team from the perspective of both the players and the back office. The creative team behind the project includes Michael Strahan, former football player for the New York Giants.

A dark comedy, "Transparent" is about a Los Angeles family with "serious boundary issues" that the company says explores "sex, memory, gender and legacy" as secrets spill out.

Update, 6:42 a.m. PT: Adds further details about the pilots and context about Amazon Studios strategy.

 

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