Tyler Bern has been with Amazon Prime Video for five years and in the role as head of content for Australia and New Zealand since 2019. He has moved swiftly to build a library of seven Australian commissions within that time including the new Making Their Mark.
“We are a big global streamer that wants to build a connection with customers locally,” Bern explained to Mediaweek just days before the launch of the new AFL documentary series launching this weekend.
“To be successful globally you need to be successful locally. I have been spending most of my time looking for Australian content to build that connection with the Australian customer.
“It is something we’re proud of because it is a way we differentiate ourselves by creating some amazing content. We are also able to take those stories to a global audience of 150m+ people.”
Amazon Prime is planning to increase the output of local content. “While we are currently more skewed to scripted than unscripted, you will see some exciting scripted announcements coming from us.
“We are hiring executives on the ground to support both scripted and unscripted TV to be based in Sydney,” said Bern.
As to targets for the volume of Australian and New Zealand content the platform wants, Bern said: “Our development guides our volume. We don’t work towards a number, we let what is pitched to us dictate the output.”
Although Bern said Prime gets pitched a lot of projects, they are also proactively looking for content too. “We are always looking for the next big thing. That could range from a play we want to adapt, to a book we option. We have multiple avenues to get a project into development.”
When customers subscribe to Amazon Prime Video there a number of other benefits. Bern said for $6.99 monthly customers get “amazing value”. In addition to the TV and feature library, members get:
2-day free domestic delivery
Free delivery on international orders over $49
Early access to Amazon shopping deals
Free access to Prime Reading
Limited ad-free access to Amazon Music
The Prime Video plan offers HD and 4K if the content is available at that quality. “It’s a pretty good deal,” Bern reminded us.
“We have an excellent library of content with big global originals and big Australia originals – great movies and a great library of TV shows.”
When Mediaweek spoke with Bern, Amazon Prime Video had so far announced seven Australian originals – six unscripted and one scripted. “We don’t have a ratio for the genre of program we commission. It’s about what comes our way and in particular we are skewed to unscripted because of speed.
“We have commissioned more TV, but feature films are definitely something we are also interested in. We hope to be announcing [a feature] soon.”
As to having content that appeals globally, Bern responded: “Our number one priority is making content that resonates with the Australian customer base. Making Their Mark does have export value and it is an excellent show, but it is inherently Australian, and our Australian customers are going to love it.
“Our number one rule – content has to work in Australia, but these shows are so good they will be global hits and generate interest outside of Australia.”
Regarding acquiring international rights, Bern said the company has a number of deal structures. “It really depends on the show, but my preference is for global rights particularly for Australian commissions. I want to take these great stories and make sure Prime customers all over the world can watch them.
“It would be rare for us to commission an original just for Australia without taking global rights. It wouldn’t fit the model we have in place for Australia.”
Back to the Rafters
Amazon Prime Video might be close to a launch announcement, but it has yet to reveal the release date for its first Australian drama, a Packed to the Rafters reboot Back to the Rafters. “It’s a very sweet show that pulls on your heartstrings. Fans of Packed to the Rafters are going to go crazy for it.” We just don’t when that might be.
“Given all the crazy stuff going on in the world right now, the Rafters are what we need. Great actors with great storylines in the reboot. We are proud to be able to bring back Rafters and it will be a big event for us.”
Bern said the whole series is finished. “I have seen the whole thing, many, many times,” he admitted.
“We are getting closer to a launch date announcement and it will screen this year.”
Prime Video will be sharing the six new episodes along with all the previous seasons which are on the platform already.
Making Their Mark
The seven-episode JAM TV series about the AFL in 2020 launches on March 12. “We filmed for over a year and there were lots of Covid procedures and protocols that were put in place. A lot of time and effort went into the whole project to make sure everything was right. It is a sizeable investment for us and a show we are very proud of. We feel it will really resonate with AFL fans. Making Their Mark is not just about football. It’s about dealing with Covid, it’s about family and it’s about living in Australia.”
Bern’s day-to-date contact on the production was Luke Tunnecliffe, head of content at JAM TV parent company McGuire Media. Bern said McGuire Media chairman Eddie McGuire was not involved in the production.
The Test and access all areas
Bern explained Prime Video customers had great feedback about the cricket series The Test and were impressed with the access the series’ cameras were able to get behind the scenes. “When Making Their Mark comes out we will have similar access.
“On The Test we had access that hadn’t existed before that I know of. It let viewers into the inner sanctum of the Australian cricket team.
“On Making Their Mark we get close to six teams with six storylines and we are in there as a fly on the wall with unfiltered, raw content. It is a fascinating watch to see the differences between the clubs and the personalities.”
ESPN might be the first name that comes to mind when you think sports documentaries, but Bern noted Amazon Studios is making a lot of them under their All Or Nothing banner with 40 episodes over five seasons. The company shares its learnings about getting good access with new production teams.
“The last thing we want to do is burn the trust we have with the teams and players. The moment that happens it has impacts. We take our responsibilities very seriously and we really value the partnerships we have with leagues and teams. We encourage people to watch our sports documentaries before we work with them because we consider ourselves best in class.”
Australian production partners
Amazon Prime Video has shared the love among the Australian production sector with commissions from seven different companies across the slate of local productions.
LOL: Last One Laughing – Endemol
Making Their Mark – JAM TV in association with AFL
Back to the Rafters – Seven Productions
Stand-up comedy specials – Guesswork
The Test – Whooshka in association with Cricket Australia
Sydney real estate project – Eureka
Kick Like Tayla – Screentime in association with AFL
Bern: “These have all been great production companies to work with and they are all excellent at their jobs.”
When asked about the difference in working with producers in Australia, Bern said he finds the process here more collaborative. “I love our partners and I am friends with all of them. We are all working toward a common goal.
“The stories we are making belong to the showrunners and the writers and we want to make sure their vision makes it from paper to the screen. We spend a lot of time in development to work on getting the story right.
“We don’t work to specific launch dates which can alleviate a lot of the pressure. The most important thing to us is to give our customers the best series or feature possible. We need to nurture the creative process because that is where everything comes from.”
Amazon Prime Video has not ever revealed any guidance on audience numbers in Australia. In separate surveys conducted in 2020, Roy Morgan estimated there are over 3m Australian living in homes with an Amazon Prime subscription. Meanwhile Telsyte ranked Amazon Prime Video #3 streaming service in Australia with 1.7m subscribers, behind Netflix (5.4m) and Stan (2.1m).