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Amazon renews 'Alpha House,' picks up 6 series

Amazon Studios is keeping the John Goodman-led comedy and picking up six of the 10 shows it tested in its latest "pilot season," including one that gives Amazon its best shot at taking on Netflix's Emmy cred.

The men of "Alpha House." Amazon

Amazon will bring its first original series, the half-hour political comedy "Alpha House," back for a second season and plans to make full series out of 6 of the 10 shows it tested in its latest "pilot season."

Monday's announcement comes two days before the expected unveiling of a streaming-video device and as the company takes sharper aim at Netflix.

As Netflix has grown into the Internet's No. 1 subscription streaming powerhouse, rivals like Amazon and Hulu have mounted their own efforts to develop original series in response to the popular and critical hits Netflix scored with shows like "House of Cards" and "Orange Is the New Black." With its latest picks for full series, Amazon is not only tripling its slate of programming but also selecting shows more likely to generate the kind of fervid online buzz and critical accolades that lead to high-profile award nominations -- keys to Netflix's success with original programming.

On Wednesday, Amazon is widely expected to unveil a streaming media device to compete with Apple TV, Roku, and Google's Chromecast.

Read: How Amazon Studios went from grassroots idealist to Hollywood threat

On Monday, the company's Hollywood arm, Amazon Studios, said "Alpha House" will return for a second season, with filming set to start this summer, after it became "the most popular TV season" on Amazon Instant Video.

Joining "Alpha House" on Amazon Studios' slate are four series aimed at adult viewers -- "The After" from "The X-Files" creator Chris Carter, "Bosch," which is based on Michael Connelly's best selling series, "Mozart in the Jungle" starring Gael Garcia Bernal as a renegade orchestra conductor, and "Transparent," about, well, the title is a pun and we'll leave it at that. The pilot for "Transparent," which was created by an Emmy-award-winning writer for the HBO program "Six Feet Under," was very well received by critics and could be Amazon's best hope for an Emmy.

Amazon also approved two children's programs -- "Gortimer Gibbon's Life on Normal Street," created by a first-time writer out of Amazon Studios grassroots development program, and "Wishenpoof."

The announcements lacked any reference to "Betas," the Amazon original that quickly followed "Alpha House" in Amazon's first go at its own series. An Amazon Studios spokesman said the company hasn't made an announcement about the program, which focused on a San Francisco startup and would likely face difficult comparisons to an upcoming HBO series "Silicon Valley" by Mike Judge, the creator of "Office Space" and "Beavis and Butthead."

Amazon indicated that its full original series would continue to be part of Prime, the $99-a-year service that gives subscribers free two-day-shipping.

The four adult-oriented new shows will be shot in 4K Ultra HD, a high-definition video format that quadruples the number of pixels of standard full HD. Netflix said earlier this year it would be producing all of its originals in 4K, after Amazon promised the same in December.

Though Amazon itself is a giant, its Instant Video service appears to be a sprout by comparison. Amazon characterizes its Prime membership in the "tens of millions," compared with Netflix's more than 44 million members worldwide, but the number of Prime members who stream instant video seems to be small. A study by Sandvine, which runs fixed and mobile data networks worldwide, found that Amazon video sites represent just 1.61 percent of North American Internet traffic, while Netflix gobbles up 31 percent of the total volume of Net traffic during the peak part of the day.

Correction, 9:33 a.m. PT: The original version of this story misidentified the lead actor in "Mozart in the Jungle." The actor is Gael Garcia Bernal.
Update, 10 a.m. PT:
Added Amazon Studios spokesman response about "Betas."