Amazon Studios taps John Goodman for 'Alpha House' comedy

Amazon, as well as Netflix, Hulu, YouTube, and others born of the web, are spending billions producing and acquiring exclusive programming to acquire and keep subscribers.

Dan Farber
2 min read

Imagine John Goodman strutting across the screen as a smooth-talking, deal-making Southern House member or senator. But, don't think of Kevin Spacey's conniving Francis Underwood in Netflix's "House of Cards."

Amazon Studios is reportedly tapping Goodman to play North Carolina Sen. Gil John Biggs in an upcoming comedy, "Alpha House." The new series, written by Doonesbury cartoonist Garry Trudeau, centers around four senators who live together in Washington, D.C.

John Goodman Paul A. Hebert/Getty Images

"Alpha House" is just one piece of Amazon's ambitious foray into original content. In December 2012, Amazon announced that it was making a major investment in original content with six comedy pilots in the works with writers from hit shows such as the "The Daily Show," "30 Rock," "The Big Bang Theory," and The Onion, in addition to Trudeau.

Amazon also has a dozen children's show pilots, including from the creators of "Blue's Clues" and "Sid the Science Kid," and from The Jim Henson Company. Starting in June, Amazon Prime will be the only place to stream the latest episodes of popular British TV series "Downton Abbey."

No doubt Amazon, as well as Netflix, Hulu, YouTube, and others born of the web, want to be the new, streaming Hollywood. They are making substantial investments in developing, producing, and acquiring high-quality programming that competes with what the established broadcast and cable networks and studios put on television or in theaters. They have learned that aggregation of content is not enough of a differentiator to keep people in their seats, or in front of their tablets or smart TVs.

Netflix's "House of Cards," which costs nearly $4 million per episode to produce, is part of a big bet by the streaming company to attract millions of new paying subscribers around the world. Netflix is also exclusively producing a horror thriller, "Hemlock Grove," that will debut on April 19; "Orange is the New Black" from the creator of "Weeds"; and "Derek" with Ricky Gervais. Netflix is also bringing a fourth season of "Arrested Development" in May to its subscribers. In addition, Netflix inked a major exclusive deal with Walt Disney to stream films from Walt Disney Animation Studios, Pixar Animation, Marvel, and Disneynature starting in 2016.

Hulu has new seasons of its exclusive series and a few new shows for 2013, including "The Awesomes," an animated show from SNL's Seth Meyers and Michael Shoemaker of "Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, and "The Wrong Mans," a drama about office workers who unexpectedly end up in the middle of a deadly criminal conspiracy. And, Google's YouTube is reportedly planning a subscription service as part of an overall plan to support more exclusive, high-quality content.

As Rep. Francis Underwood says in "House of Cards," "It doesn't matter how it happened -- we can't make it unhappen. Now we have to adapt." The leaders in streaming popular, high-quality content are adapting, and a new world order is gradually forming.