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商业 - 科技

亚马逊教你拍电视

Jessi Hempel 2014年05月20日

亚马逊去年一共生产了24部试播节目,甚至比一家普通的电视台为全年的黄金时段准备的节目还多。亚马逊为什么要自己拍电视?怎样拍出观众爱看电视节目?听听亚马逊工作室主管怎么说?

亚马逊工作室的成功试水之作《阿尔法屋》已经在续拍第二季。

    亚马逊(Amazon)从两年前开始制作自己的电视节目。亚马逊工作室主管罗伊•普莱斯表示,去年亚马逊一共生产了24部试播节目,甚至比一家普通的电视台为全年的黄金时段准备的节目还多。

    亚马逊于今年2月6日试播的五部喜剧和电视剧中,将有四部被正式拍成剧集,其中包括一部黑色喜剧《透明》(Transparent),围绕一个父亲是变性人的洛杉矶家庭展开;还有讲述纽约的一支管弦乐队日常生活的喜剧《丛林里的莫扎特》(Mozart in the Jungle);由《X档案》出品人再次操刀推出的科幻电视剧《以后》(The After);以及根据侦探小说家迈克尔•康奈利的小说改编的电视剧《博斯》(Bosch)。另一部去年推出的电视剧《阿尔法屋》(Alpha House)则将迎来第二季。

    《财富》杂志在《连线》(Wired)杂志于纽约举办的连线商业大会上采访了普莱斯,请他解答如何才能生产出好的电视节目,以及亚马逊为何要拍摄自己的电视剧。

    《财富》:你人在西雅图,你的团队在哪里?

    普莱斯:他们在洛杉矶。不过如果想做电视节目的话,就必须去洛杉机。我有一张阿拉斯加航空的MVP金卡。今年八月我会搬回到洛杉矶——我就是从那儿来的。

    九年前你来到西雅图加盟亚马逊,当时你主要负责什么?

    我来了之后主要负责数字视频商店的启动,当时它还叫DVD商店。当时我们面临的问题是,如何才能实现数字方面的视频业务?我记得那些日子,一个工作室的负责人曾对我说:“你知道吗,我告诉你一件事,永远不会有人下载我们哪怕一部电影。”但是八个月以后,我们就和他们签订了协议,但当时正是一个转型的阶段。

    现在差不多所有人都跳到专业制作电视节目的领域里了。雅虎今年也宣布了一些决定,格兰媒体(Glam Media)也是。现在市面上已经有很多电视节目了——是不是存在一个容纳极限?

    我想有些人可能会彻底失败,但是很多人也会发现一些独特的东西,一些值得说的东西,而且拥有自己的观众。现在人们有很多创意。我认为关键的问题是,从业务模式的角度看,你是否能吸引足够多的人对这部剧产生热情。这取决于你的业务模式是什么——是靠订阅还是靠广告。我相信我们会看到很多试验作品和艺术上的成功,然后他们会找出赚钱的办法。

    那么,现在是电视行业创新的好时机吗?

    当然,市场对高质量节目的需求很高。对于独特的原创点子来说,有些这种点子在十年前可能是非常有挑战的,但是现在可能最大的挑战就是怎么立项。任何事情都存在挑战,但是市场有这个胃口。

    亚马逊的原创视频业务模式是怎样运作的?

    我们的业务模式相对比较直接,因为我们有订阅服务,所以我们的目标只是要把人们吸引到亚马逊金牌服务(Amazon Prime)上来。如果你订阅了有权观看全部电影和电视节目的视频服务,我们会赠送你全球最大的网商提供的两日免费发货服务。

    生产一部电视剧要多少钱?

    我们拍电视剧不是按集算成本的,但是这些电视剧的成本与同领域的其他电视剧的成本基本持平。

    奈飞(Netflix)公司表示它拍摄《纸牌屋》的投资超过每集250万美元,你们的花费有这么多吗?

    我认为《纸牌屋》的成本可能要高于平均水平,因为他们有凯文•史派西这种大牌和大卫•芬奇这样的大导演。另外我想《女子监狱》(Orange is the New Black )、《傲骨贤妻》(The Good Wife)、《博斯》和《美国谍梦》(The Americans)这几部剧和《纸牌屋》基本上可以列在同一阵线。但不管拍一部精品电视剧的成本是多少,对我们来说都是安全范围。

    目前亚马逊工作室一共在生产多少节目?

    我们有五个儿童节目和五个成人节目,也就是说我们正在生产的节目有十个,而且我们还有些试播剧。我们刚刚拍了一部由惠特•斯蒂尔曼执导、在巴黎摄制的试播剧《四海为家》(The Cosmopolitans),长度有半个小时。另外我们还刚刚拍摄了另一部很精彩的试播剧《上帝之手》(Hand of God),主演是朗•普尔曼和达娜•德拉尼,导演是《末日之战》( World War Z )和《死囚之舞》(Monster's Ball)的导演马克•弗雷斯特。之后,我们还会推出更多的试播剧。

    Two years ago, Amazon (AMZN) started developing television content. In the past year, the company produced 24 pilots, which, according to Amazon Studios director Roy Price, is more than a typical broadcast network will prepare for primetime in a year.

    Four of the five comedy and drama shows that Amazon debuted on Feb. 6 will be made into a series. They include Transparent, a dark comedy about an L.A. family with a father who is transitioning genders; Mozart in the Jungle, a comedy set amid the dramas of life in a New York orchestra; The After, a sci-fi drama from the creator of The X-Files;

    and Bosch, a drama based on books by the detective novelist Michael Connelly. Alpha House, released last year, will get a second season.

    Fortune spoke with Price on May 13 at Wired's BizCon in New York about how to make good TV and why it makes sense for Amazon.

    Fortune: You are in Seattle. Where is your team?

    Price: They're in L.A. If you want to make TV shows, you gotta go to L.A. I have MVP Gold status on Alaska [Airlines]. I'll move back to L.A. -- I'm from there -- in August.

    You moved to Seattle nine years ago to join Amazon. What were you tasked with doing then?

    I came to start the digital video store, at the time the DVD store. The question was, How are we going to approach the digital side of the video business? Those were the days when, I can remember one studio head saying to me, "You know, I can tell you one thing: No one is ever going to download one of our movies." And you know, eight months later you have a deal with them, but it was a period of transition.

    Right now, everyone is jumping into professionally produced content. Yahoo announced some things this year. So did Glam Media. There's so much television -- is there a limit?

    I suspect some people will fail outright, but a lot of people will find something that is distinctive and worth saying and has an audience. There's a lot of creativity out there. I think the question is whether you'll have enough people getting passionate about the show to make it work from a business model point of view. It depends on what your business model is -- subscription vs. advertising. I have no doubt we'll see a lot of experimentation and artistic success, and then we'll figure out the business side.

    So it's a good time to be a creative in television?

    Absolutely. There's great demand for high-quality work. And for original, distinctive ideas. The kind of idea that would have been super-challenging 10 years ago is now perhaps merely challenging to get going. Anything is challenging, but there's an appetite.

    How does the business model for original programming work for Amazon?

    Our business model is fairly straightforward because we have a subscription service so the goal of our program is simply to attract people to Amazon Prime. You've got a full subscription video service with movies and TV shows and then by the way, we'll give you free two-day shipping on the world's biggest Internet retailer for free.

    How much does one of these series cost to produce?

    We don't go into the budget per episode, but the cost of the series is the same as the cost of a series at any one of these places.

    So when Netflix (NFLX) reveals it's spending more than $2.5 million per episode on House of Cards, you are spending about the same?

    You know, I think House of Cards may be higher than average because they have [actor] Kevin Spacey and [director] David Fincher. I suspect that Orange is the New Black and The Good Wife and Bosch and The Americans are all in the same basket. Whatever premium cable broadcast budget is, that's a safe range for us.

    How many shows does Amazon Studios currently have in production?

    We have five children's shows and five adult shows. So we have 10 shows in production and then we have pilots. We just shot a pilot with Whit Stillman in Paris called The Cosmopolitans. That's a half hour. We also just shot a fabulous pilot called Hand of God starring Ron Perlman and Dana Delany and directed by Marc Forrester, who did World War Z and Monster's Ball. And we'll have more pilots after that.

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