It’s official- Amazon will, indeed, be taking over MGM studios and their nearly-century long catalog of content. This news means there’s a big shift coming in the streaming space, but for now, details on exactly how are scarce. Brandon Blake of Blake & Wang P.A gives the entertainment attorney’s perspective on the new merger.
The Impact on Theatrical Release
An Amazon spokesperson has assured us that this will not alter how MGM titles are handled theatrically, for now. Despite taking over a catalog of over 17,000 TV episodes and 4,000 films, Amazon and MGM will continue to support theatrical releases for old MGM properties. However, they’ve left the door open for future changes, too, saying that there will be no one-size-fits-all approach to future releases. There’s been no commitment made to windows or further details, either. Take that as you please.
In taking over the studio, of course, they will also be assuming its existing joint ventures and distribution operations, which cannot be put to the side lightly. MGM pulled in over $300M in domestic box office numbers last year. Amazon, meanwhile, has been pulling back from using separate distributors, once its favored model, in favor of in-house operations. No change to existing destination details for in-production MGM properties will take place.
MGM’s complex century-spanning deals will be difficult to sort through, for sure. For example, an existent 1986 deal with Turner, currently part of AT&T, but about to be spun off themselves to WarnerMedia Discovery, owns the pre-May 1986 MGM movie catalog, alongside others, meaning Amazon will not (yet) be able to mine many of the entities it’s technically taken control of.
For staff, surprisingly, the way forward seems clearer. No layoffs are anticipated at present. While some Amazon big-wigs will be onboarded to lead combined teams, we have little details on how other senior leadership will be impacted, however.
For now, there’s little else transparent about the $8.5B deal. All regulatory hurdles have been passed without fuss, although an FTC spokesperson has stated that they ‘won’t hesitate’ to challenge the deal post-close if it’s found to be in breach anywhere. Amazon does have a current clash with the FTC over a wider antitrust probe underway, which may sour things as they develop.
For now, Amazon seems keen to assure us that it will be business-as-usual for MGM, while playing their cards close to their chest on how future developments and deals will be shifted. We can, of course, assume it will be all made in their favor over time, and I anticipate seeing much shift in future-forward distribution deals to bring them all home to roost in Amazon’s pockets. This streamer has been very closed indeed in revealing critical data to interested parties, part of the issue at stake in the antitrust probe, so further speculation will have to await what details we do see revealed.
For now, however, we can at least acknowledge that this will be an immense change in the entertainment landscape, and one skewing heavily in the streamer’s favor, at least over time. We will definitely be awaiting further developments with much interest.