Documentary Business

Peter Hamilton Consultants, Inc

MIPDoc Takeaways: Here Comes Amazon Prime, The Big Disrupter of the Video Industry

MIPDoc and MIPTV made a big impression this year because my panels and conversations revealed how quickly our video ecosystem is accelerating into the online era.

Here are my Takeaways:

Amazon Prime: The Big Disrupter.

A very welcome contributor to my ‘MIPDoc Coproduction Summit’ panel was Conrad Riggs, the head of Amazon’s Unscripted Originals unit.

  • Mr Riggs is an industry heavyweight.
  • An ex-Disney exec, his credits include serving as co-EP of “Survivor.”
  • His effort builds off Amazon’s big statement in 2015 when it signed up “Top Gear’s” Jeremy Clarkson to host “The Grand Tour,” with its rumored (and denied) budget of $250 Mn.

Scale and a New Model

  • Amazon Prime is a radical disrupter for the entire video industry of producers, TV networks, public broadcasters, pay-TV operators, sports leagues, advertisers, agencies, and more.
  • Its financial resources dwarf its competition in the video business.
  • It operates with a unique and highly confidential business model: Amazon’s Prime Video customers buy significantly more products and services than non-Prime online shoppers.
  • Amazon Prime is also a subscription service:
    • It’s 90 +/- million customers each pay $100 +/- year if they live in wealthy markets, and less in developing territories like India that Amazon is prioritizing.
    • That’s around a $U.S. billion to spend on programming from just one revenue stream.
  • Prime is also a very convenient platform for subscribers to sign up and pay for other SVOD channels like HBO and Curiosity Stream. That’s another revenue stream for Amazon.

The continued success of my free newsletter depends on expanding my reach.  Please recommend my work to your friends and colleagues. Here is the link to today’s report on Amazon Prime at MIPDoc and MIPTV.  Please copy and pass it on. Peter

With Conrad Riggs and Nicolas Deschamps, Producer, Gédéon Programmes, France.
Also on the panel were Laura Fleury, SVP/Head of Programming International, A+E Networks, USA
and Bo Stehmeier, SVP Global Sales, Red Arrow International, Germany

Green Lights

Conrad Riggs’ pipeline of series will initially focus on A-list names, brands and producers.

  • “All or Nothing” takes viewers inside the NFL’s Los Angeles Rams.
  • Also green lit is a docuseries about the McLaren Formula 1 racing team and another about the grueling Le Mans 24-hour race.
    • These series tick the boxes for “Big Characters” and “Big Risk” and they appeal to the auto-head audience targeted with the Jeremy Clarkson series.
  • “American Playboy: The Hugh Hefner Story” is a drama doc series that melds soft porn and a big American character. Plus, Playboy is a global brand that is pre-sold across Amazon’s 200+ territories.
  • “Lore” is a series that does not come with pre-sold characters and brands:
    • It is focused on the “retelling of true stories based on supernatural events.”
    • The team of super-EP’s developing “Lore” tells a story about Amazon’s production strategy:
    • It includes Glenn Morgan (“The X-Files”), Gale Anne Hurd (“The Walking Dead”), Ben Silverman (“The Office”), and Howard Owens, a super-producer who I last met when he was serving as president of Nat Geo Channel.


  • Conrad Riggs shared that he is looking to rapidly expand his team in U.S., UK,  Germany, France, and soon elsewhere.
  • Programming will be localized over time: he mentioned a Japanese version of the dating game-show “The Bachelor.”
  • Amazon announced last week that it will set up the warehouse network to sell and deliver physical goods in online friendly Australia. Maybe original Aussie programs are on the horizon.
  • Amazon’s Originals are commissions that serve a global footprint.


  • Over time, Amazon will expand its product line into a variety of genres and formats, just as its retail offering expanded from books to toasters and PC peripherals.
  • We expect Amazon to extend its programming bouquet to include original classic Factual programs from producers who are established but are not necessarily “names.”
  • Tough social issue documentaries are not likely to be on Amazon’s priority list unless the project is led by a celebrity.
  • (Films dedicated to changing the world for the better will mostly continue to require private and foundation funding.)

My Big Takeaway

  • Amazon’s power in the video industry will accelerate as consumers increasingly abandon bricks-and-mortar retail stores for online shopping.
  • The U.S. retail industry is collapsing.
    • A third of U.S. shopping malls are estimated to close this decade.
    • Retail leaders like Macy’s are reporting shocking losses.
    • The UK experience is similar.
    • (Watch out for catastrophic effects on local employment and the tax base.)
  • Each time a consumer elects to shop online, it creates a pitching opportunity for Amazon Prime.
  • However, the global factual television industry is a vast multi-billion dollar sector.
    • There are hundreds of niches that will continue to be filled by channels, producers and distributors who work outside Amazon’s reach.

Meanwhile, Netflix

  • Meanwhile, NETFLIX just passed 50 million U.S. subscribers, and nearly as many subs overseas.
  • HBO is stuck at 30 million subs: That shows both the power of SVOD and that Netflix is a ferocious competitor!
  • CEO Reed Hastings says that his major competition is “sleep’: In other words, his binge viewers of series just don’t want to switch off and go to bed.
  • Watch out for more compelling Netflix documentary series that keep you up all night, as well as A-list directed Specials.

Channels Still Spend

  • Public television systems worldwide plus hundreds of ad-supported channels spend a multiple of the total SVOD that is budgeted for documentaries.
  • Their ‘sunset’ will be a slow one. The channels still constitute the biggest opportunity category for producers.
  • Also, many of the channels are swinging back to Factual after the Reality phase lost steam. It’s kind of “Back to the Nineties”, but updated for a new generation.
  • Channels’ audiences are tending to shrink and age, thereby becoming less valuable to advertisers.
  • Their programmers are looking for opportunities to coproduce and find sponsors.


  • Smithsonian’s EVP Programming David Royle in his presentation at the MIPDoc Copro Summit described the important contribution to Smithsonian’s success of his flexible and layered copro strategy which he has been committed to since launch
  • Because there are now hundreds of factual channels worldwide, Bo Stehmeier reported that demand is high, and leading distributors are eager to pre-sell appealing programs.
  • Nicolas Deschamps described Gédéon’s copro models. And Laura Fleury shared A+E’s expanding international copro and commissioning effort.


  • Watch this newsletter for more Takeaways from MIPDoc and MIPTV on SVOD, Copro’s, the PBS Vietnam series, and more.


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