The Conversation JENNIFER SALKE, HEAD, AMAZON STUDIOS
Fortune India|January 2022
Covid-19 left an indelible mark on the OTT industry as people worldwide were compelled to isolate themselves within the confines of their homes. As more and more got on the binge-watching bandwagon, an onerous task for streaming platforms was to cater to the burgeoning demand for original content. Jennifer Salke, head, Amazon Studios, talks about how the pandemic forced the company to think up new business models and out-of-the-box content.
AJITA SHASHIDHAR
THE MACRO PICTURE

All through the pandemic, we saw filmmakers across the world release their films on OTT platforms. At that point of time they had no option. But now with theatres opening up, what kind of model do you see emerging?

There will be a hybrid model 1 . What I was most proud of was the relationships we created with the talent involved with big films. Earlier, we were very transactional. We would launch the film, but never bothered to have any contact with the talent. Now we have deals with Eddie Murphy, Michael B. Jordan and Barbara Mori. I talk to Sacha Baron Cohen all the time. So, we have created a trusted relationship with those filmmakers and performers—rather than create a feeling like Amazon bought the movie and we are on to the next. It’s important to have that relationship. I got many calls from our partners saying that they felt like it was a global moment when their film was released on Amazon. Of course, it will never replace the feeling and satisfaction of sitting in a theatre and watching people experience their story and react to it. They will look film-to-film, strategy-to-strategy, what’s the best way to experience the content for a global audience — a hybrid model, either released only on Amazon Prime Video 2 , or have a full theatrical release and then have a second window on Amazon. We don’t have any hard and fast rule about that; it’s about the individual creator and best strategy for the content.

Are we going to see niche filmmakers increasingly bypassing theatres and opting for OTTs?

It will vary. Our job is to educate filmmakers who are working on niche content. For instance, look at Sound of Metal with Riz Ahmed (we have a deal with him and we are creating a slate of television shows and movies for our global audience), he put the movie on Prime Video, and got a huge global audience engagement— which I don’t think he would have got had he pursued a theatrical run exclusively. It depends on the partner and once we have enough examples, I would consider speaking to people who want to launch a big film or a small, niche film on Amazon Prime Video, and ask them how their feelings were, if they created a moment of cultural impact. People will be surprised with their answer that what they did felt good.

Covid-19 increased OTT adoption across the globe. But, that was a time when protocols compelled you to shut down your productions. How did you make sure that the show went on despite the restrictions?

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