Culture

Jeff Bezos Now Owns James Bond: Amazon Buys MGM Studios—What Does It Mean for Entertainment?

(AP Photo/Cliff Owen, File)
Welcome to the Amazon Entertainment Universe

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos is once again making people wish they’d bought stock in the company back in 1998. The Amazon monolith is about to gobble up one of the most iconic studios in the history of cinema.

The Wall Street Journal:

Amazon.com Inc. AMZN +0.25% said it has agreed to acquire Hollywood studio MGM Holdings, a deal the e-commerce giant is betting can jump-start its Prime Video streaming platform and position it to compete with industry heavyweights including Netflix Inc. and Walt Disney Co.

The purchase, which was unveiled Wednesday morning, has an equity value of $6.5 billion, people familiar with the matter said. Including debt, the value of the deal is $8.45 billion, Amazon said. It is the second-largest acquisition in the company’s history behind its $13.7 billion purchase of Whole Foods in 2017.

In MGM, Amazon will get a library of over 4,000 films, including iconic franchises such as “James Bond” and “Rocky,” and classics such as “The Silence of the Lambs,” “Raging Bull” and “12 Angry Men.” The TV catalog includes critically acclaimed shows such as “The Handmaid’s Tale,” “Fargo” and “Vikings.”

As the Journal notes, this continues a trend of media mergers in recent years. A trend that probably doesn’t bode well for either movies or television.

The rapidly changing nature of the way entertainment is delivered to us is behind the acquisition:

Media executives have buzzed for years about the possibility of mergers with companies such as Amazon and Apple Inc., but the tech giants avoided big-ticket deals as they built out their streaming platforms.

Now, the landscape is shifting. Traditional studios are keeping more content for their homegrown streaming services, such as NBCUniversal’s Peacock and WarnerMedia’s HBO Max, instead of licensing it to the likes of Amazon and Netflix. Owning MGM would help Amazon better control its destiny in the streaming wars.

Amazon is banking on not only having old movies and TV shows to offer its customers but also using that content to create new franchises.

Remember when we were all going to cut the cable cord and just enjoy Netflix? Then Amazon started giving all of us who were Prime subscribers a sort of “Netflix Lite” offering. That seemed like a sustainable, post-cable universe. Now there are so many streaming options that it’s easy to end up shelling out more money per month for them than for cable. Honestly, I’m still not sure what the heck a “Paramount Plus” would do for me.

It would be great if all of that competition spurred creativity, but I’m not going to hold my breath waiting for that to happen.

I am a big consumer of the streaming services. Ever since I took over the Morning Briefing in 2019 I’ve developed the habit of having the television on while I’m working on it late at night and into the wee hours of the morning. I’ve sampled many of the new niche offerings. I’ll get rid of one then subscribe to another for a month — usually through Amazon — and see if I can find anything interesting. There are a few gems out there but lately it seems that for every original show I find that I like, there are at least 20 clunkers.

I recently lamented to a friend that I felt that I was getting close to exhausting all of the content I like on the streaming services.

While I do find shows — and occasionally movies — that I enjoy from time to time, most of the newcomers aren’t providing enough entertainment for me to want to subscribe month after month.

Back to Amazon. The article mentions that the company is hoping to use the MGM purchase to “create new franchises.” In other words, Bezos wants his own Marvel Cinematic Universe.

I have nothing against the blockbuster franchises. I’m huge MCU and Star Wars fan. Heck, I even love the DC flicks. I watched the Snyder cut of Justice League in case you don’t believe me. It would be nice if the movie industry weren’t obsessed with these franchises though.

Outside of the superhero blockbusters, the fare is mostly depressing social justice crap. Escapism in film is no longer a priority for most writers and directors (I’m going to write a column about that soon). The obsession with message-laden realism and the franchise movies have almost killed comedy. There MIGHT be one watchable (note that I didn’t say hilarious) comedy every three years now.

I’m not a knee-jerk Amazon hater, so I would love to be proven wrong here. I just get the uneasy feeling that none of this points towards real creativity ever being a priority again.