Amazon's 14-Pilot Experiment Blazes a New Path in VOD Marketing

How many Hollywood movies and big studio TV shows have you seen and been tempted to yawn at? You recognized the plot within the first five minutes, you could tell what would happen before it did, or worse, you could dictate an entire plot based solely on the trailer.

Hollywood and big studios' risk-averse culture, though once justified, has now become irreverently obvious, and while people still eat what they feed them, they're starting to look elsewhere for their entertainment thanks to video-on-demand (VOD) services like Hulu and Netflix offering original series content.

On Friday, April 20, 2013, Amazon Instant Streaming locked arms with Hulu and Netflix to shift moviegoers from big theaters to home theaters and mobile devices with original content of its own.

The Path Hulu and Netflix Created

Netflix was the first public corporation to revolutionize the film and TV industry with instant streaming at a convenient price. Hulu's lure was its niche as an Internet hub for TV's most popular series. Two network giants own it as it is: Fox Broadcasting Company (NewsCorp) and Disney (though it's now leaning towards a 2013 IPO).

Here's how Amazon Instant Video's spinning things.

Hulu offers original content, and the success of Netflix's original series House of Cards solidified the viability of such a gamble. Its next original series, Eli Roth's Hemlock Grove, is generating some buzz as well.

Now Amazon's spinning the original series model on its ear using the power of customer engagement. It's placed 14 different series pilots on its Amazon Instant Video site for you to watch free: 6 children's shows, 8 comedies. As the site boasts, you "call the shots" by completing a brief survey after each pilot you watch. According to Reuters, Amazon Studios will then decide which shows to produce based on viewers' feedback.

Mashable reports once the voted series are produced, they'll be available for streaming to Amazon Prime subscribers (who pay $79/year) at no extra charge.

Amazon also made sure to market the shows on other sites in its network: AmazonMP3 offers free downloadable songs from the shows, and you can click the IMDb link to learn more about the cast and crew for each.

The Hidden Value of the 'New' Approach

Amazon's using a key principle Dale Carnegie left decades ago in influencing people: value the opinions of others. Let's face it, we're self-centered. Make us feel important, and we'll give you the time of day.

Marrying that tradition with the now ubiquitous VOD model could lead to two major and so far elusive milestones: fewer viewer complaints (since they choose what they want to see) and lower costs for the studios (Netflix, Amazon, and Hulu).

The big studios (CBS, NBC, FOX, and the major cable networks) still walk the tightrope every year in producing pilots and starting a show's first season based on the pilot's Nielsen ratings, only to pull it midseason or after only a handful of episodes due to low viewership. It's a costly gamble.

Amazon's viewer-voted model not only makes elimination plain, it takes much of the process off its hands, which reduces the studio's costs and risks.

And that's every business' ambition, isn't it?

Given the now common crowdsourcing trend, more networks will most likely follow Amazon's approach and make their own niche tweaks where necessary.

What are your thoughts on Amazon's campaign? Leave a comment below.


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About the Author: Mellissa Thomas is a freelance writer, blogger, web content writer, copyeditor, proofreader, and authors three blogs: E.i. Geek (Blogger), her writing blog Mellifluity Inc. (WP), and The Tenderfoot Files, the online platform for her 5-ebook suspense series (WP). 

She has also self-published two books: a weekly devotional entitled From a Babe: A Weekly Devotional, and the first ebook of her 5-ebook series, Abstracted: Episode 1 of the Tenderfoot Series.
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