According to Alan Sepinwall, Amazon is launching its own TV series with an innovative release plan.
The comedy Alpha House stars John Goodman as one of a group of Republican senators who live together. It will debut on November 15 with three episodes available for anyone to see. After that, new episodes will come weekly, but only to Amazon Prime customers. Betas, a show about a Silicon Valley start-up, will follow the same plan starting on November 22.
This NY Times article on the plan points out that “Prime members reportedly spend 150 percent more on the site after joining”, which gives Amazon strong incentive to encourage more people to pay the $79 a year the “free shipping and viewing” program costs.
I watched the Alpha House pilot when Amazon was doing a lot of audience reaction sampling, and I didn’t think it was as good as its pedigree (it’s created by Doonesbury‘s Garry Trudeau) would indicate. However, the premise is intriguing, and lots of good comedies take more than a handful of episodes to find their footing.
By combining the impulse to binge watch with a more traditional release schedule, Amazon seems to be straddling what TV is becoming and what it used to be. Mostly, I’m fascinated to see them release original programming, and crowdsourced (in the original choices) at that. Let’s see if the people that selected this middlebrow comedy tune in for the long run. Particularly since the shows so far are male-heavy, matching the traditional internet user but not the female-dominated fanbases that make fan hits.