Amazon recently had some internal documents leak to the press, giving the world the first official look at just how big a successful streaming series can be. It also revealed some behind the scenes info on the company's recent acquisition of the rights to a Lord of the Rings prequel series, which sounds like its going to be super expensive. Amazon is prepared to spend around $500 million or more on the series, which if successful, could pay off for the streaming service in the long run.
Jeff Bezos wanted a television series that would rival Game of Thrones, and it sounds like he's prepared to break out the pocketbook for the Lord of the Rings series to get his wish. Amazon offered $250 million of that potential minimum $500 million for the rights to the show, which had previously been reported to be good for 5 seasons and a spinoff. Reuters reported people within Amazon then estimated the cost of production and marketing for the series' first 2 seasons and threw out the number of at least $250 million, which would equate to a budget of $125 million a season if split down the middle.
The budget for the Lord of the Rings show is three times the budget of Amazon's original series The Man In High Castle, which has been viewed as a success by the platform. Amazon's documents appear to show the service equates a show's success based on a show's "cost per first stream," or the first title a new member watches after signing up. The Man In High Castle's budget spent versus "cost per first stream," equaled out to about $63 per subscriber, so given that a subscriber often pays $99 a year for the service, that series is considered money well spent. The Grand Tour is even better for Amazon using this metric, as the show's "cost per first stream," value sits at $49 for Season 1, which when coupled with the fact it likely had a much smaller budget than a scripted series, is a big win for Amazon.
Amazon seems to expect this Lord of the Rings series will bring in a lot of new Prime members, otherwise, it wouldn't be dropping half a billion dollars on it. Even if the series doesn't pull in "first streams," by a number lower than the average Amazon Prime subscription rate, Prime users have been shown to order things from Amazon at a much higher frequency than those who don't, which means Amazon still gets money. Whether that money gained will be enough to justify the cost of the series remains to be seen as Amazon's proposed budget is well above what it cost to make the original Lord of the Rings trilogy.
Amazon hasn't said when The Lord of the Rings series will be premiering yet, but we would wager the release is still a ways off. For a look at other shows coming to Amazon in the meantime, visit our Amazon premiere guide. For a look at shows coming to television in general in the near future, visit our midseason premiere guide.