Photo: Patrick Semansky (AP)
Amazon is ending its policy of letting U.S. viewers vote on which TV pilot episodes they would like to become full-length series, announcing at the Television Critics Association's press tour on Sunday that it was ending the crowdsourcing portion of its original content program.
"I'd never say 'never' but that version is not something we're doing," Amazon Studios chief Jennifer Salke told reporters, per Entertainment Weekly. "We'll use our own testing barometers and some user data but the public voting process has been set aside for now."
According to Amazon's co-head of TV Albert Chang, the magazine added, the problem was not the voting so much as the amount of time involved in getting a new series rolling. He explained the voting process was sucking up time, resources, and energy that could be better directed towards just letting studios do straight to series production without a pilot.
"One of the things we learned is it took too long to get shows customers wanted," Chang said. "You need up taking way too long to get the actual season done."
The decision isn't coming out of nowhere. In 2017, now-former Amazon Studios head Roy Price said that "The reality of the marketplace is it's competitive and often you just have to go to series. We still have customer feedback, but will probably have fewer pilots for sure."
Some of Amazon's most high-profile content came out of the pilot program, including the Nazi-centric alt-history/science fiction show Man in the High Castle, a reboot of The Tick, and the critically acclaimed Transparent. Amazon is pouring billions of dollars into original content now, though, which means it can afford to move quick and take risks to cash in on opportunities before they dissipate. As the Verge noted, they have been making massive pushes towards developing content like adaptations of Ringworld, Snow Crash, Utopia, and Tales from the Loop, as well as a show set in J.R.R. Tolkien's Middle-Earth.
As Entertainment Weekly noted, Amazon defended the value of the pilot program as late as last November, writing:
Amazon customer feedback on pilots has helped make some of the most critically acclaimed and popular series to date, including multi-Golden Globe- and Emmy-winning series Transparent, multi-Golden Globe-winning series Mozart in the Jungle, and the most-streamed scripted Amazon Original Series ever by Prime members globally, The Man in the High Castle, winner of two Emmys.
Perhaps it will return one day in some form, but for now Amazon doesn't seem to have the time to wait and see what audiences like before they go ahead and film it.