Amazon yesterday announced that it has acquired the global television rights and has made a multi-season commitment to J.R.R. Tolkien’s “The Lord of The Rings.”

The announcement suggests that the series will not be a remake of the recent Oscar-winning trilogy of films made by director Peter Jackson, but rather “will explore new storylines preceding J.R.R. Tolkien's ‘The Fellowship of the Ring.’ The deal includes a potential additional spin-off series.”

Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed. However, Amazon did note that the three Jackson films earned “a combined gross of nearly $6 billion worldwide.”

While the announcement says that the series will be available to Amazon Prime members worldwide, Advertising Age is reporting this week that Amazon “is developing a free, ad-supported complement to its Prime streaming video service, according to people familiar with its plans. The company is talking with TV networks, movie studios and other media companies about providing programming to the service, they say … A version paid for by advertisers instead of subscribers could provide a new foothold in streaming video for marketers, whose opportunities to run commercials are eroding as audiences drift away from traditional TV and toward ad-free services like Netflix and Prime.”

KC's View: When it first became public that Amazon was negotiating this deal, I suggested in a commentary that I wasn’t sure about going back to source material that had been mined so well and so successfully in the Jackson movies. Which prompted this email from MNB reader Joe Davis…

I don’t often delve into entertainment commentary, but your spotlight on Amazon’s potential foray into a LotR TV series had me all goose-bumpy – and then I read your less-than-lustrous enthusiasm and comment about it being derivative.

Here are my observations on why this makes a ton of sense and could be a smash hit:

• Similar to Game of Thrones, there is an abundance of storylines that both avid fans and the uninitiated would enjoy.  They could easily do two seasons on the rise and fall of the Witch King’s kingdom of Angmar.  Or the prelude to the War of the Last Alliance that led to the momentous events in The Hobbit.

• Unlike Game of Thrones, the LotR universe has a decidedly more positive and “PG-rated” theme that would appeal to more viewers.  Even the strongest GoT fan at times felt like the producers went overboard, so there is plenty of room in the genre for LotR to comfortably & credibly play.

• LotR is overflowing with faith in humanity, noble leader caricatures, the prevailing of good over evil, and a celebration of the epic – all things that are playing really well and probably tapping into some strong societal demand/craving.

• For Amazon, this is a big-name franchise that comes with a large following with room to expand – and lots of peripheral merchandise opportunities (bounce-back purchases of the films, video games, shirts, toys, etc.).  It may be in an even better spot than where GoT started, which had a more limited fan base from its books prior to the TV series’ success.
As a bit of an aside, one of the hottest/trending video games right now is Middle Earth: Shadow of War which is a spin-off within the LotR franchise where the game’s antagonists/opponents have such strong AI that they remember how you treat them, your tactics, etc. and learn to battle you more effectively the longer you play, changing their emotions and behaviors along the way.  It’s being heralded as an unprecedented advancement in game AI, perhaps even AI in general.  I guess Amazon would be interested in that kind of thing too.

Thanks for the chance to nerd out…

I know when I’ve been out-nerded.

You’re right. This is all about Jeff Bezos wanting the next “Game of Thrones.” While this isn’t a sure thing, the name recognition alone pretty much guarantees this series an audience. If they do it well, it could be boffo.