Where Amazon Is Failing to Dominate: Hollywood
By Ben Fritz and Joe Flint
On the Monday morning after Amazon.com Inc. failed to win a single prize at the Primetime Emmy Awards, one of its senior television executives gathered his dejected staff at their Los Angeles-area office for a pep talk.
While Amazon Studios went home empty-handed, its streaming rivals Hulu and Netflix Inc. won multiple awards. Additionally, Amazon had earlier passed on opportunities to bid on "The Handmaid's Tale" and "Big Little Lies," which won top awards that night, said people with knowledge of the sales process.
"Things are going to get better," said Joe Lewis, Amazon's head of comedy and drama, according to a person who was present at the meeting. He pledged he and other senior executives would "try and turn this ship around."
It was an acknowledgment that Amazon Studios has been stumbling when it comes to producing content that attracts audiences and buzz. The Hollywood arm of the online giant is pivoting away from dramas for adults but is struggling to define a new strategy, say people close to the company. It has alienated high-profile content creators, who say executives have proven incapable -- or unwilling -- to smooth out conflicts that inevitably crop up during the shooting of a television show. And questions about potential conflicts of interest on the part of Mr. Lewis and studio chief Roy Price have contributed to low employee morale, people at the company say.
Amazon Studios is taking steps to get back on track, such as developing shows intended to be more globally popular, cutting back children's programming and considering new leadership in its film unit, say people with knowledge of the matter.
Mr. Lewis and a lawyer for Mr. Price, Lisa Bloom, didn't respond to requests for comment.
When it started producing original video in a bid to attract and retain subscribers for its Prime service four years ago, Amazon boasted it wouldn't follow typical Hollywood practices such as relying on executives' creative instincts and would base programming decisions on data. But staffers say it has largely abandoned that approach.
"We were supposed to bring the best practices of one of the most successful companies in America to Hollywood," said an Amazon Studios executive. "Instead, we're getting chewed up."