Amazon's Prime Video: A Quiet, Potentially Dominating Force In Streaming

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The need for original series becomes a lifeblood for streaming services, where the new is mixed in with the familiar in order to keep a rolling interest for subscribers.

Amazon's monopoly on the online shopping market is well-documented, its reach over the world massive and consuming.

Deep inside its many webs, however, is a streaming service with riches of content, a place filled with television series for larger scale and smaller scale audiences alike.

Midge Maisel Stand-Up - The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel

At its inception, the Prime Video initiative began with something akin to network pilot season, where pilots were commissioned and, based on popularity, would some time later become series.

It's a novel idea, to leave one's pilot season down to the audience, but one with some flaws.

So Much Color - The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel

Some pilots struggled with their footing out of the gate, and some simply faded away. The major issue, however, came in the wait time between pilot and the remainder of the season, in some cases becoming a year-long wait for fans wanting more.

Those waits, though, brought with them flashes of excellence. Series like Bosch and The Man in the High Castle soon became reliable shows for the streaming service, and some of Amazon's longest-running projects.

Related: Enjoy UNLIMITED access to thousands of Movies and TV shows with Amazon Prime Video

Bosch is a wall-to-wall cop show at its heart with the fantastic Titus Welliver as Harry Bosch.

It's part HBO's The Wire, part detective novel (fitting, since it's based on Michael Connolly's Bosch series), and makes season-long cases equal parts thrilling and meticulous, rewarding viewers with its detail and character drama.

Wyatt and Juliana on the Lookout - The Man in the High Castle

With The Man in the High Castle, Amazon's adaptation of Philip K. Dick's novel is brought to stunning life, each season digging deeper into a world succumbed to the Axis powers.

The science fiction bent to the story brings a compelling uniqueness to the story, the third season its most ambitious and successful.

There is a running trend with a significant amount of Amazon series, in their origins coming from book adaptations. There's something to be said of Amazon's bookselling where perhaps being a bookseller leads to a source of easy data and analytics of what is popular and worth the investment.

There comes the issue of their original slate being, when compared with competition like Netflix, a little sparse.

This could come as a detriment, but it is with the advantage of careful releases. Each week, Netflix drops shows, some with no fanfare. With Prime Video, there's at least a buffer zone, a gap to let seasons breathe.


Homecoming, the Julia Roberts-starrer with Sam Esmail at the directing helm, is another fascinating work.

The show oozes with atmosphere and confidence as it lures deeper into the mind in a mysterious therapy facility. Its ten episodes are quick and stylish as they present a dual narrative of wanting to remember, and wanting to forget.

Some shows, unfortunately, fall under the radar. Case in point: Patriot, the series about a spy sent by his father to Luxembourg with a bag of cash on a secret mission.

Related: Homecoming Review: Julia Roberts is Radiant in Amazon's New Thriller

What ensues is a master class of anything that can go wrong, will go wrong, creating two seasons of genius television.

It's smart, it's funny, and knows exactly what it is, something some longer-running shows struggle with.

Creator Steven Conrad molds a level of emotional deconstruction into his characters, where someone like its lead, Michael Dorman's John Tavner, is so beaten and broken to the point of simply moving forward by necessity.

John Tavner - Patriot

Shows like Patriot and Sneaky Pete are worthwhile series hidden away behind harder pushed series like Homecoming and The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, where attention for one takes away attention for others.

There's something to be said of one show potentially bringing people into the ecosystem to find those other series, but it's a gamble.

The service is locked into something larger, and is likely not the reason for the monthly or, more commonly, yearly asking price. This is an easy way of saying, some may not even notice Prime Video.

Attaching the service to Amazon Prime is a risk versus reward scenario, as it's mentioned as an included benefit, but for a broader audience, may not be even noticed.

When a customer is looking for faster and better online shopping experience, it may not be apparent there's a streaming service attached unless looking past the price.

Joel and Midge Argument

One show to help change this is the immense success of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, the Emmy and Golden Globe-winning show about 1950's housewife-turned-comedian Midge Maisel.

The show has taken on a larger word-of-mouth than its accompanying Amazon series, to the credit of its wonderful cast (which includes a brilliant Rachel Brosnahan and Alex Bornstein), and the pitch-perfect writing of Amy Sherman-Palladino and her writers.

The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel Season 2 Review: Savor This Splendid Treat

The pilot's success found the series as one of the few to receive not only a season pick-up, but two.

The playful style and excited presence the show brings is a vibrant addition to the streaming service, and shows how Prime Video can bolster major talent and deliver one of the more exciting shows in some time.

Bosch and Edgar Investigate

The streamer also finds success in areas others are delving into, as well: international series, as either acquisitions or co-productions.

British series like Fleabag and Catastrophe are joined by co-productions like Vanity Fair and Good Omens to liven up and deliver a breadth of content, where there's always be something for someone.

It's in its future where the untapped potential comes, as well.

The monster success of HBO's Game of Thrones has led Amazon into an acquisition spree, including such large sci-fi and fantasy properties like J. R. R. Tolkien's Lord of the Rings, Robert Jordan's The Wheel of Time, and Stephen King's The Dark Tower.

Properties like these come with the risk of using name recognition in the hopes of creating instant success rather than finding it like Game of Thrones did.

He's an Analyst

The streamer also looks to be backing talent both in front of and behind the camera, though some of these are still in the development ethers and not fully realized or ordered projects quite yet.

The service's success also comes in its original films slate.

Related: Mireille Enos and Joel Kinnaman on Hanna, Reconnecting, Esme Creed-Miles & More!

Smaller movies with critical buzz (like Manchester by the Sea, Paterson, The Big Sick, You Were Never Really Here, and Cold War) help buoy the service with their eventual additions once the theatrical run is complete.

This, coupled with their television slate, leaves its licensed library with some excellent films off the beaten path but worth discovering.

Erik's Last Stand - Hanna Season 1 Episode 8

Prime Video, even with the benefit of being part of an over-arching service, is a large and encompassing and, with time, dominating force.

It's a multipronged approach, where movies and television co-exist to set it apart from the competition by giving both the big and small voices a home.

The hidden gems are astounding series, worth the investment.

The pairing of the small but with the large, when they do come, could find Amazon in a particularly unique situation, where their standing as an addition becomes more prominent, and breathes new life into the service.

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Prime Video Quotes

Every small town has a secret. Ours has a game. The losers stay here where losing is what we do best. The winners get out. In Carp, Texas, out is the only place worth going. That’s why players risk their lives to win.


Natalie: When we win Panic, we don’t have to worry about jobs.
Heather: [To Bishop] What did I tell you, right? She’s serious.
Natalie: You guys should be rooting for me!
Heather: People died last year, Natalie.
Natalie: People die in bathtubs and in car accidents.
Heather: Especially when they’re walking blindfolded across the freeway.