Remember when Amazon let audiences vote for the pilot of a TV show they liked the most, and when enough people voted for it, the company would then order it to series? That's how the Emmy-winning show Transparent first came to life, and the reason why the Hiro Murai-directed Sea Oak flatlined.
Well, it appears Amazon will stop involving viewers moving forward. For the last six years, the company has turned over the decision to greenlight projects to Prime Video customers, putting the fate of these shows on the concept of popular vote. That will cease, however, as Amazon transitions to relying on its own metrics.
Amazon Ends Pilot Season Voting Gimmick
The company made the announcement during its Television Critics Association presentation on July 28, with studio head Jennifer Salke saying that while it'll "never say 'never,'" Amazon has begun using "own testing barometers and some user data" to determine which shows will be picked up to series.
Pilots And Getting Picked Up
For those unfamiliar with TV lingo, being "picked up to series" means that a show will have a full season. A pilot, meanwhile, is the first episode of a show that's pitched to producers and studio heads, upon which they'll decide if the concept is compelling enough to stretch to more episodes. Many shows die as pilots, like the aforementioned Sea Oak. Some are lucky enough to get full series orders. Others are really lucky and get two full seasons right off the bat, like the upcoming show Homecoming by Mr. Robot creator Sam Esmail.
So, why is Amazon ending its pilot season voting system? Well, it's less about the "voting" aspect being at fault — rather, Amazon thinks creating pilots are just getting too cumbersome. The studio appears to be opting for an entirely different approach. It might, for example, mimic other networks such as AMC, which has largely opted to bypass the pilot system and instead develop an entire show and just pick them up all at once.
According to television co-head Albert Chang, the pilot process simply felt too long for some users, because after voting for a show they liked, they would then have to wait for it to be picked up, filmed, edited, then released. That could take months.
Is This A Good Thing?
While it might sound at first like Amazon is lighting itself up on fire by withdrawing audience participation, one can argue that this is actually a much better way of getting things done. Look at Netflix, for example. Sure, it uses highly complex algorithms to determine what people want to watch, but when it comes to creating content, it gives writers, producers, and directors as much freedom as they need to do what they do best.
One can also argue that art tends to suffer in the context of a popularity contest. Truly compelling, interesting, and challenging shows might not get picked up simply because not enough people voted for it, with the full series order being awarded to a show with a thrilling premise but one that's ultimately devoid of substance.
Imagine if Amazon pitted Mad Men and Stranger Things against each other. A lot more people would probably go for Stranger Things, given its easy appeal and blend of different genres. That's not to say Stranger Things isn't an excellent show in its own right, but in a voting system, people would probably never get to see Mad Men rise, and that's a shame because it's arguably one of the most spectacular shows the world has ever seen.
In other words, leave it up to the studios, writers, and showrunners to decide what's good. They know what they're doing.