Of all the feathers in Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos’ many-feathered cap, one of the bigger ones in recent years is the announcement that his company’s studios are working on a Lord of the Rings TV series. With HBO riding high with Game of Thrones, Netflix sporting its Marvel shows, and Hulu showing off stuff like The Handmaid’s Tale, every network has some prestige shows to get people in the door and paying. There might not be any show that has as much prestige going in as an explicitly Lord of the Rings-affiliated show, though. So why did HBO, the godking of prestige networks, pass on the show?
HBO CEO Richard Plepler opened up about it at the recent Business Insider Ignition conference, according to Variety.
“I’d rather own our IP 100%… and I’d rather have the ability to work with a product that is inextricably linked to our brand,” Plepler said.
While shows like Game of Thrones and Westworld come from properties created outside HBO, there’s no question they’re HBO properties at this point. For a huge number of Game of Thrones‘ viewership, it’s an HBO show before it’s a long-running novel series. Even moreso, Westworld is an HBO product, not a reimagining of a 1973 sci-fi movie featuring Yul Brenner.
Lord of the Rings, on the other hand, is one of the most-read book series in the modern world and one of the most-watched movie series. There’s already a picture of Lord of the Rings in the heads of people all over the world, and the HBO logo isn’t hovering in the bottom-right corner of any of those pictures. The rights and credit for the property are tangled up in the Tolkien estate, Time Warner’s New Line Cinema arm, and director Peter Jackson, too. The same way Marvel is trying to pull its own stuff in-house, it doesn’t seem surprising that HBO would rather try its hand at creating the next big thing in-house instead of keeping a team of lawyers on retainer to navigate the complex rights of this show.
Meanwhile, Pepler doesn’t have any delusions about just how much money Jeff Bezos actually has.
“If I’m Bezos, [$250 million] is Monopoly money,” he said. Bezos might have Scrooge McDuck-sized piles of money, and Netflix might be spending billions on new content, but Plepler said that HBO is experiencing unprecedented growth.
“We’re on track for our biggest year in history in terms of subscriber and revenue growth, and we see that growth just increasing over the coming years,” he said.
So while we won’t see HBO diving into the Lord of the Rings game or picking up properties that belong to other big content houses, it sounds like the company is doing just fine.