Amazon's The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power is causing internal issues
Some showrunners are questioning the Amazon Studios' creative philosophy.
Amazon's The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power, reportedly the most costly series made to date, was not the standout hit the company had hoped for.
Despite breaking Amazon Prime's streaming record on its debut, the series heralded by Amazon Studios CEO Jennifer Salke as "culturally defining" had a disappointing 37% domestic completion rate, and a 45% completion rate outside the US.
Major performance guilds weren't raving about the series either, with it receiving a mere single SAG-AFTRA nomination, and even that being for its stunt ensemble.
Salke seems adamant that The Rings of Power is a success story, however. She said: "This desire to paint the show as anything less than a success - it's not reflective of any conversation I'm having internally."
Yet, showrunners inside Amazon Studios are unhappy. Speaking to The Hollywood Reporter, one veteran said: "There's no vision for what an Amazon Prime show is. You can't say 'They stand for this kind of storytelling.' It's completely random what they make and how they make it."
Another Amazon Studios showrunner said: "Amazon has more money than God. If they wanted to produce unbelievable television, they certainly have the resources to do it."
This lack of breakout success and internal disagreement is raising concerns in the industry, especially at a time with economic cutbacks on many productions.
Salke, however, isn't worried: "The proof exists that the giant tentpole shows are driving people to subscribe to Prime. Do we pressure ourselves to be more disciplined, more strategic? Of course. We consistently examine if we're producing the right amount of content at the right value to drive the most engagement across our service."
Clearly engagement isn't being driven, however, as Amazon continues to lag behind other streaming services in both the popularity of their flagship IPs and in watch time from users.
Figures from Nielsen regarding minutes watched of original series ranked The Boys at 11th and The Rings of Power at 15th in 2022, and in 2021 no Amazon original touched the top 15.
Salke remains optimistic that Amazon Originals are on the rise, however, and are an invaluable tool for expansion to global markets.
Salke explained that in some countries, Amazon-owned programming reaches consumers before sales and shipping does, acting as a kind of cultural marketing. She said: "International is everything. It is our business to deliver shows for a global audience."
But, with the average overseas completion rate for The Rings of Power at 45%, it seems Amazon still has some work to do in order to create a truly original niche in the entertainment industry.