Amazon tries to add heart to data-driven content creation

Although the use of metadata to help determine the kind of shows audiences want to watch has gotten a lot of attention over the past year or so–particularly with the success of Netflix's (NASDAQ: NFLX) House of Cards, a show developed partly from data analysis–Amazon (NASDAQ: AMZN) is trying to find the heart that drives the popularity of series as its original-content efforts evolve.

A New York Times article said that Amazon is struggling "to find the right balance between art and algorithms" and to do so is relying less on data analysis and more on investing in high-caliber directors and writers in developing its next crop of pilots.

"Most of the projects currently in the pipeline are the works of established Hollywood talent," NYT's Emily Steel wrote. "Notably absent from the lineup of originals are online submissions from amateurs."

Amazon had in the past given more weight to such amateur submissions in its pilot-selection process. It hasn't dropped the program, however; the retail giant told NYT that a children's-show pilot slated for the near future came from an online submission.

Amazon Studios typically posts several series pilots to its Prime Instant Video service at once, then analyzes user feedback and viewing data to determine whether to order more episodes.

Its third pilot season will debut Aug. 28, with five potential series up for viewer feedback: three half-hour comedies–The Cosmopolitans, Really and Red Oaks; and two hour-long thrillers–Hand of God and Hysteria. Steven Soderbergh, Jay Chandrasekhar and Mark Forster are among the big-name creators developing the new pilots.

Unlike Netflix, whose series Lilyhammer, House of Cards and Orange Is The New Black made an immediate splash, Amazon's original content has not caught on so readily.

Amazon greenlit six pilots for a full season last year, but only one, Alpha House, was renewed for a second season.

For more:
- the New York Times has this article (tiered sub.)
- see this press release

Related articles:
Amazon to spend $100M on original online video content in Q3
Amazon's Fire TV a success story, but lean profits have investors watching
New Amazon pilots draw mixed response
Amazon Studios chief touts pilot model

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