Amazon raises the streaming stakes with MGM acquisition

The online retailer becomes a worthy home entertainment contender practically overnight

The famous Metro Goldwyn Mayer roaring lion logo and animation now belong to the most important retailer in the world. For better or worse. (Image: MGM)

So the rumors were true and Amazon does intend to upset the streaming market balance of power: the retail giant has just announced it acquired MGM Studios in a deal worth almost 8.5 billion dollars. Through this acquisition - its biggest so far in the home entertainment business - Amazon now owns more than 4.000 films and 17.000 TV shows belonging to MGM from 1986 onwards, including movies that have yet to be released such as Ridley Scott’s House of Gucci, Paul Thomas Anderson’s Soggy Bottom, Candyman, Respect and most notably the next, repeatedly-delayed, James Bond film No Time to Die.

"The real financial value behind this deal is the treasure trove of IP in the deep catalog that we plan to reimagine and develop together with MGM’s talented team,” said Mike Hopkins, senior vice president of Prime Video and Amazon Studios, in a statement. “It’s very exciting and provides so many opportunities for high-quality storytelling". What this means in practical terms remains to be seen, but the intellectual properties covered by that "treasure trove" reference include anything from Rocky, Legally Blonde, The Pink Panther and Poltergeist to 12 Angry Men, The Handmaid’s Tale and Vikings.

The Handmaid’s Tale is just one of the many quality MGM intellectual properties that now belong to Amazon - how the latter will handle them in the future is anyone’s guess. (Image: Amazon)

Arguably MGM's most precious asset, of course, is none other than the James Bond film franchise, 50% of which is owned by the company. The other 50% is controlled by the Broccoli family and its production company, Eon. Everything Bond-related is overseen by Barbara Broccoli and her half-brother Michael Wilson, who also decide how to finance and distribute Bond films. It will certainly be interesting to see how this is handled in the future, as it was Sony Pictures who did the movie theatre and home edition distribution of Bond films since 2006. Amazon would also have to get Eon's approval if it wanted e.g. to produce a Bond spin-off for its streaming service.

There can be no doubt, though, that this acquisition will help Amazon Prime Video tremendously in the future. The streaming service has not been directly comparable to, say, Netflix or Disney Plus up to now because Prime Video has always been marketed as one of the major benefits of being an Amazon Prime subscriber (there are other perks related to music and e-books). Having access to MGM's entire library of the last 35 years is the kind of instant boost that transforms Prime Video from an also-ran to a serious contender in the entertainment streaming business.

It seems that Daniel Craig made one last miraculous escape before his character was sold to Jeff Bezos. Even he will have to get Barbara Broccoli’s permission for anything Bond-related, though, so there’s that. (Image: MGM)

What everyone is curious to find out in the long run, of course, is what Amazon plans to do with such a historic studio as Metro Goldwyn Mayer in general. Τhe biggest retailer in the world does not have any traditional ties to Hollywood so it might not feel obliged to follow the "movie theatres first" model of distribution. Right now and for the next 12-18 months MGM has a number of films in the pipeline or in production already, so these will probably proceed as usual, but what about 2024 or 2025? And what about that charming British agent who's seen better days? Oh, such corporate drama - worthy of a movie, maybe?