In a recent development, Amazon CEO Andy Jassy has raised concerns over the exorbitant production costs of certain shows, with the spotlight falling on the Priyanka Chopra and Richard Madden-starrer spy series, Citadel. The poor response from both critics and audiences, has raised questions about the show’s staggering $250 million budget.
According to a Bloomberg report citing insider sources, Jassy has requested a detailed budget analysis for Amazon’s major shows, six of which have seemingly underperformed over the past nine months. This scrutiny comes at a time when Amazon is preparing to lay off tens of thousands of employees and reevaluate projects that are no longer deemed necessary. Recent productions such as Daisy Jones & the Six, The Power, Dead Ringers, and The Peripheral, each costing $100 million, failed to crack the list of the 10 most-watched shows in the US, as per Nielsen ratings.
Even the highly anticipated Lord of the Rings series, titled The Rings of Power, which reportedly carried a massive $400 million price tag, struggled to retain its audience during its debut season.
However, the show that came under severe criticism was Citadel, which went through a major creative overhaul after Amazon scrapped the original version delivered by creator Josh Appelbaum, opting for a new version that required an additional $80 million, provided by executive producers Joe and Anthony Russo. Citadel managed to make Nielsen’s top 10 chart on only one occasion, trailing behind Netflix’s Barbecue Showdown.
As part of Amazon’s ambitious spending strategy under Amazon Studios chief Jen Salke, the company pursued deals with high-profile talents such as Phoebe Waller-Bridge, Jordan Peele, and Donald Glover for first-look agreements. However, these deals have not yielded the expected results. Similarly, Amazon’s deal with Priyanka Chopra has not produced significant outcomes.
Even supporters of Salke acknowledge that Citadel began more as a business proposition than a creative endeavour. The initial plan for the show’s first season was a budget of $20 million per episode, spanning eight episodes. However, only six episodes were aired. To streamline production for the second season and mitigate previous challenges, Russo has been appointed as the director for each episode, reportedly earning $25 million for the role.
In June, Amazon Studios’ head of drama series, Odetta Watkins, admitted that Citadel requires time to grow and deemed the show a victory. Citadel was designed by Amazon as a global franchise, with an Italian spinoff already completed and an Indian spinoff, featuring Samantha Ruth Prabhu and Varun Dhawan, currently in production.
The scrutiny of Citadel and other underperforming shows reflects Amazon’s efforts to assess the return on investment for its productions. As the streaming landscape becomes increasingly competitive, the company seeks to strike a balance between artistic creativity and financial viability while aiming to captivate global audiences.
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