Back in December, Amazon went global with its video streaming service, Prime Video, extending it to over 200 countries and territories around the world, including India. Despite that, Amazon seems to be keeping its latest Pilot Season programme – that allows registered users to watch new Amazon Originals, and vote on their favourites – to the US only, still.
On Friday, five new pilot episodes were made available – space drama Oasis, starring Richard Madden (Game of Thrones’ Robb Stark); 50s’ comedy-drama The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, from Gilmore Girls creator Amy Sherman-Palladino; dark comedy The Legend of Master Legend, inspired by a 2008 Rolling Stones article; animated sitcom The New V.I.P.'s; and marijuana comedy Budding Prospects, based on T.C. Boyle’s 1984 novel. But if you live outside the US, good luck catching them, as you’ll be met with a geo-block message.
It’s a baffling decision, more so when you consider that Amazon is producing them itself, which should grant it the rights to distribute it around the world. Allowing viewers globally to watch and rate new content is not only logical, but it also creates a deeper connection with the audience, who are more likely to return for a full series they voted for, should it get picked up.
Better still, some of Amazon’s best shows have come through the pilot programme, such as the family drama Transparent, starring Jeffrey Tambor as a trans woman; music-comedy Mozart in the Jungle centred on an aspiring oboist; and alternative history drama The Man in the High Castle, loosely based on Philip K. Dick’s 1962 book. The motoring show The Grand Tour, from ex-Top Gear trio Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond, and James May, remains an exception.
The other, obvious advantage of taking Pilot Season global is the reflection of international tastes, which would counter the current America-centric approach. With Prime Video available to billions of Amazon users outside of the US’ millions, it’s both strange, and unacceptable that only American subscribers can decide what everyone ultimately gets access to.
If this plays into any trend, it’s that Amazon doesn't seem to have a coherent strategy to its greenlighting process. While it has successfully used Pilot Season for the last four years in the US, Amazon has taken an entirely different approach to TV shows produced in India, where it announced a total of 17 shows at launch itself, with nine already in some stage of production.