Amazon trying to lure Black producers
Carol Ozemhoya| OW Contributor | 6/15/2018, 3:29 p.m.
According to Forbes magazine, Amazon is trying to lure Black content producers to expand its reach to viewers who enjoy urban content. In its latest move, the retail giant signed a deal with “hot” producer Jordan Peele (“Get Out”), where Amazon gets first look at television series from Peele’s company, Monkeypaw Productions. Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos has made original content one of Amazon's most public endeavors, even though the company has never released figures for its total audience. Amazon is expected, however, to spend about $5 billion on new original programming this year alone. This amount of money would mark just a drop in the bucket for a company projected to make $234.22 billion from its 2018 revenue. CultureBanx notes that Peele is joining the influx of Black producers and creators teaming up with streaming companies. Former President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle just inked a multi-year storytelling contract with Netflix to produce series and films under their company Higher Ground Productions. Netflix also has a multi-year content deal with award-winning show-runner Shonda Rhimes for reportedly $100 million. Actor Tiffany Haddish, as well as directors Spike Lee and Ava DuVernay, are among the other Black professionals who have worked with Netflix. It’s also rumored ABC’s “Black-ish” creator Kenya Barris might join the team. Notably all of these creators have developed Black-related content. Netflix, being the major player in the space, has 125 million subscribers spread across 190 countries. The company is investing up to $8 billion in original content this year, which is significantly more than what Amazon is willing to do, as it looks to expand its subscriber number. New subscriptions for Netflix during the first quarter included more than 2 million U.S. users, which represent a growth increase of 50 percent compared to 2017. For both Amazon and Netflix, the push to collaborate with Black creators makes perfect sense. Look at traditional TV viewership, and Nielsen found shows with a predominantly Black cast or a main storyline focused on a Black character are drawing substantial non-Black viewership. This is clearly something Netflix has picked up on, especially with Shonda Rhimes. Her “How to Get Away with Murder” show draws an audience that’s 69 percent non-Black and her other hit “Scandal” had a 68 percent non-Black viewership. Storylines with a strong Black character or identity are crossing cultural boundaries to grab diverse audiences and start conversations, says Kori Hale of Forbes. “That insight is important for culture and content creators, as well as manufacturers and retailers, looking to create engaging, high-impact advertising campaigns,” said Andrew McCaskill, senior vice president, Communications and Multicultural Marketing, at Nielsen. Streaming services, which have a much broader reach than traditional TV, have a lot to gain by betting on Black producers. While Netflix is leading the race, Amazon has very deep pockets and could easily outpace its top competitor in this space. There are some analysts who note producers still prefer to be connected with Netflix. Michael Graham, senior equity analyst at Canaccord Genuity, told CNBC “[Netflix is] really one of the go-to places, if you're a movie producer, or if you're a creative talent that has a great show, Netflix is going to be the place where you want to end up.”