Amazon has been investing heavily to convince more people to sign up for Prime, and recently paid for the exclusive online rights to a number of shows including the second season of "Downton Abbey" and the CBS show "Under the Dome," which will debut this summer.
The company is taking a creative stab in the TV space, not just a financial one. One of the original pilots, "Betas," is about a high-tech startup that is trying to create the world's greatest social media app, called BRB. The "Betas" shoot took place in a real-life shared workspace for app developers in Santa Monica, Calif., last month. The show treads on familiar ground for the Internet pioneer company Jeff Bezos founded in a Seattle garage two decades ago.
Script memos from Amazon higher-ups tended to focus on how to portray startup culture, rather than on character or plot. Amazon put producers on the phone with real-life venture capitalists, helping writers craft one of the main characters, a financier played by Ed Begley Jr.
"It's little things from that world," said Alan Freedland, another veteran producer overseeing the show. "Guys were saying, 'They wouldn't say they'd email each other.' They said, 'They'd ping each other.' "
And actors are warming to the new reality that Internet companies are wading into what was once exclusive Hollywood territory.
Karan Soni, who plays the straight-laced software programmer in "Betas," said he likes that his work will be seen, something that the traditional TV system doesn't guarantee. That not only helps the 24-year-old's career, it suits the younger generation he's part of.
"What Amazon is doing which I think is really cool is the pilots are actually going to be seen by everyone," Soni says. "They encourage you to watch on your computer and tablet and things, whereas networks don't. So we're not fighting with the people we're sending the content to. That is so cool."
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