Amazon Ramps Up Original Content Efforts With New Show Starring Robert DeNiro

Amazon (AMZN) is looking to become a bigger player in original content with a new television show starring Robert DeNiro and Julianne Moore, and written and directed by David O. Russell, sources told Variety.

The star-studded show will be part of the Seattle-based e-commerce company's ambitions to nearly double its spending on video content and marketing in the second half of this year, and triple its number of original TV shows and movies. Amazon's video content helps to attract extremely valuable Prime subscribers, who pay $99 per year or $10.99 a month for expedited shipping, and who spend significantly more than non-Prime customers.

Amazon CFO Brian Olsavsky didn't give an exact figure for content spending projections this year in the company's 2016 second quarter conference call in August. However, the company spent about $1.3 billion in 2014, with 20% to 25% allocated to original programming, and is estimated to have spent around $3 billion on music and video content last year.

More spending is paying off, at least in terms of awards: its programs were nominated for 16 Emmy awards this year and took home 5 wins.

The new show starring Moore and DeNiro could bring in even more accolades and viewers, as more and more A-list stars such as Matthew McConaughey, Halle Berry and Emma Stone bring their talents to television.

Little information has been revealed about the new show's plot or storyline, save for the fact that Academy-Award nominated director David O. Russell will write and direct all the episodes. Amazon has reportedly ordered two seasons of eight episodes each, according to the Hollywood Reporter.

Amazon reportedly spent $160 million for the show, according to the Hollywood Reporter's sources, and DeNiro alone will rake in $850,000 per episode, sources told Variety.  

The original content arena is a crowded field, currently dominated by video streaming service Netflix (NFLX) . "Amazon still trails Netflix by a substantial margin when it comes to original content, but they're clearly stepping up their investments," said Eric Jhonsa, TheStreet's technology columnist.

Amazon has a ways to go before it catches up to Netflix, however. Netflix budgeted $4.97 billion for spending in 2016, and plans to shell out an additional $6 billion in 2017. The company was nominated for 54 Emmys for its content this year, the most nominations it has ever received, and ultimately won 9.

Other companies are also jostling to gain market share in the online video streaming space. Dish Networks' (DISH) SlingTV, Alphabet's (GOOGL) rumored Google Unplugged service, AT&T's (T) DirecTV Now and Hulu, a joint-venture streaming service owned by Disney (DIS) , Twenty-First Century Fox (FOXA) , Comcast's (CMCSA) NBC Universal and Time Warner (TWX) , are all competing in the segment.

With so many players and only a finite amount of time viewers can spend glued to a television screen, Amazon is facing tough competition as it boosts its content spending. But the company hopes that blockbusters with high-profile names like Moore and DeNiro can lure viewers away from the competition.

Amazon is held in the Growth Seeker portfolio. See all of the holdings with a free trial.

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