Amazon's Billion Dollar Show
The first two episodes of the most expensive TV series ever made are now available for your viewing pleasure.
The budget for season 1 of The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power clocks in at about $715 million. This is a gargantuan budget that is equivalent to about 5.1 million Amazon Prime subscriptions, which costs $139 a year. This figure is on top of the $250 million Amazon spent to acquire the rights to the Lord of the Rings franchise, making this the most expensive TV series ever made. (Source)
Do I think 5.1 million people who aren't already Amazon Prime Subscribers are going to pay a $139 annual fee JUST so they can watch The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power?
Do I think anyone at Amazon (a company of which I'm a huge fan and regular customer, to be clear) believes this will happen, or that there's going to be a clear return on investment for this $1 billion spend?
So does that mean it's a bad spend?
The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power reinforces that Prime Video & Amazon Studios is a serious player in the entertainment business ready, willing, and able to make spectacular shows and incredible films.*
It demonstrates strength in an area that many people felt existed only to sell more batteries and toilet paper. (And while Prime Video *absolutely* does this, creating great content is a way to show it's more than that... and might one day be a viable business on its own.)
It's a great (albeit very expensive) way for Amazon to signal "we can do anything" to its employees and encourage them to think BIG.
And Amazon founder Jeff Bezos has reportedly been a huge fan of LOTR since he was a kid... so having Amazon develop this show must be an absolute delight for him!
Okay, fine, that last one is a terrible reason to spend $1 billion...
... but the other reasons are solid.
"Return on Investment" is an extremely important metric.
But success usually can't be measured exclusively on ROI.
P.S. For context, HBO's "House of the Dragon" reportedly cost only $20 million for each of the 10 episodes in Season One. Will "The Rings of Power" be five times better than HotD to justify a 5x budget? We'll see!
* If you need a few great recommendations of what to watch on Prime, let me know; the company isn't always great at promoting its original content, but there are a few gems on there worth watching!