A new report by THR on The Rings of Power highlights how Amazon beat HBO and Netflix to the rights to make this Tolkien based TV series. Back in 2017, the Tolkien Estate decided they were selling TV rights. This prompted all the big hitters, save Disney AFAIK to throw their hat into the ring, or Rings in this case.
Now the report details for the first time exactly what approach was taken by each studio. Therefore, ultimately why it was Amazon who ended up acquiring the rights. Before you ask, no it was not a highest bidder situation. In fact, the fee commonly reported in the press that Amazon paid was in fact what Netflix had bid. Amazon’s final price was tens of millions lower, though still a massive fee.
‘The call from the lawyers came in to Amazon on a Friday in 2017: The Tolkien estate was going to entertain proposals for a Lord of the Rings show. Prime Video, along with every other entertainment company, was looking for “the next Game of Thrones.” Amazon’s founder and chairman, Jeff Bezos, was a longtime Tolkien fan. Going after The Lord of the Rings was a no-brainer, and an internal “fellowship” was assembled to figure out how to beat other prospective bidders.’
‘Sources say HBO pitched the estate on retelling Middle-earth’s “Third Age” — essentially remaking Peter Jackson’s beloved Lord of the Rings trilogy, which grossed $3 billion and won 17 Oscars. The estate has its gripes with Jackson’s adaptations (the late Christopher Tolkien, the author’s son, said they “eviscerated” the books) but wasn’t interested in treading the same ground. Netflix pitched doing several shows, such as a Gandalf series and an Aragorn drama. “They took the Marvel approach,” said one insider to the talks, “and that completely freaked out the estate.”’
‘Amazon’s negotiating team (led by Sharon Tal Yguado, Roy Price and Dan Scharf) wooed the estate not with a specific pitch, but with a pledge of a close relationship that would give the estate a creative seat at the table so it could protect Tolkien’s legacy. There was also, of course, the money. Sources say the staggering number that’s been widely reported ($250 million) was actually Netflix’s bid and that Amazon’s number was tens of millions less (albeit, still staggering).’
‘“It was our collective passion and fidelity to Tolkien that really won the day,” says Amazon Studios TV co-head Vernon Sanders (who came on board in 2018 as part of an executive shakeup which included Price being ousted for a misconduct claim, Jen Salke joining as Amazon Studios chief and Albert Cheng being installed as TV Co-Head).’
No Cash Grab
I guess this is why showrunner Patrick McKay says he’s annoyed when people claim the show is a cash grab.
“Some of what’s been hardest to hear is the cynical point of view that this is a cash grab,” McKay says. “It’s like, oh my God, the opposite. This is the most earnest production, it’s not a paycheck job for anybody. This is a labor of love.”
Having watched the first six episodes now of Season 1, I can see where McKay is coming from. Is the show perfect, no. However it is IMO made by people who have a passion for the material. After that, it’s all subjective. However given what could have been from either HBO or Netflix? I’m glad we are getting something set in the Second Age. A rerun of TLOTR over several seasons seems pointless. Made up stories (mostly) about what Gandalf and Aragorn got up to don’t really interest me. Least not as much as the creation of the Rings and the downfall of Numenor. At least there is some of Tolkien’s own hand to go by in this period, if not much.
I found this article particularly insightful. Surely the fact the Tolkien Estate feels happiest with this show, and more involved can only be a good thing? Though, as with all media, let’s see where how Season 1 ends and Season 2 goes first.
What do you think about the report on how Amazon beat HBO and Netflix to The Rings of Power? Thoughts below as always.