The Lord Of The Rings isn’t the niche property that it was when Peter Jackson pitched a two-movie series to New Line in the late 90s. It’s a globally recognized brand, which, in the language of studio executives, means it’s important. There’s nothing more important than a brand except a globally recognized one, and that’s what Lord Of The Rings is. A globally recognized brand needs a dowry, a trust to ensure that its global recognition continues to grow, and that’s what Amazon intends to do with Lord Of The Rings.
Several years ago, many were dismayed by Amazon’s decision to dump $465 million into a television series based on the works of J.R.R. Tolkein (perhaps not realizing the amount of work and investment that goes into maintaining a global brand). But in a recent roundtable with the Hollywood Reporter, Amazon Studios head Jennifer Salke offered some calm to those worried that the company is not adequately preserving the brand potential.
“The market is crazy, as you saw with the Knives Out deal,” she said, referring to the $469 million Netflix paid for two sequels to a movie that’s a nationally recognized, sure, but globally? “This is a full season of a huge world-building show. The number is a sexy headline or a crazy headline that’s fun to click on, but [the budget] is really building the infrastructure of what will sustain the whole series.”
Still, Salke agrees that it will take an entire global viewership to make that investment worth it. To put it in very calm, clear language that everyone can understand and vibe with: They’re going to need a Game Of Thrones-on-steroids-like-viewership to get the most return on their franchise. What’s more, they have to compete with other brand-hungry studios in bidding wars for these properties.
“But it is a crazy world and various people on this Zoom, mostly [Netflix executive Bela Bajaria] and me, have been in bidding situations where it starts to go incredibly high,” she said. “There’s a lot of wooing and we have to make decisions on where we want to stretch and where we want to draw the line. As for how many people need to watch Lord of the Rings? A lot. A giant, global audience needs to show up to it as appointment television, and we are pretty confident that that will happen.”
Amazon is taking a considerable risk, even with the worldwide recognition of the brand. This adaptation is already twice as expensive as Peter Jackson’s original films (but those movies weren’t globally recognized brands yet, so it’s kind of a moot point) and doesn’t feature the globally recognized characters that people enjoyed in the Academy Award-winning trilogy. Amazon’s The Lord Of The Rings will take place before the Jackson trilogy, and while only six episodes are confirmed, we’re confident that a globally recognized brand of that stature will surely warrant a few more.