From programmes to programming: why are tech firms making TV shows?

Amazon Prime Instant Video

Amazon prime

Amazon is slowly catching up with rival Netflix

Amazon is investing heavily in original programming for its service Amazon Prime Instant Video, and like Netflix it has attracted some big names: for example its political series Alpha House was created by Doonesbury's Garry Trudeau, stars John Goodman and has attracted cameos from politicians and stars such as Bill Murray.

It has commissioned tech comedy Betas, Michael Connelly's crime drama Bosch, a third series of Ripper Street and family programming including the series Tumbleleaf, Creative Galaxy, Annebots and Gortimer Gibbon's Life on Normal Street.

Amazon's commissioning arm, Amazon Studios, doesn't just do TV: it also develops comic books and movies, obtaining submissions from online applications and using crowd-sourced feedback to choose what to make and what to cancel. Amazon's current slate of TV movies includes the drama Hand of God, which is about a corrupt judge, and the Paris-set comedy The Cosmopolitans.



Sorry UK readers, Hulu is US only

The US-only service recently announced two new series: a Real Housewives parody called The Hotwives Orlando and a reality-style drama about dancers, The Next Step.

Those series supplement Hulu's existing original programming, which currently includes teen drama East Los High, comedy series Quick Draw, sports mascot documentary Behind The Mask, animated comedy The Awesomes and supernatural comedy Deadbeat.


Netflix is the critical darling in this company, with well-deserved plaudits heaped on its lush House of Cards reboot and its prison comedy-drama Orange is the New Black.

The firm has also commissioned comedy series Bad Samaritans, crime comedy Lilyhammer, horror series Hemlock Grove and the reanimated Arrested Development.

Netflix has picked up season 4 of The Killing, is making a historical epic about Marco Polo and an animated series of Puss In Boots, and it will stream sci-fi drama Sense8, whose executive producers are Matrix creators Andy and Lana Wachowski, later this year or in early 2015.

The service has also commissioned some comic book series from Disney and Marvel: Daredevil is filming now, and Netflix is also commissioning series of Luke Cage, Iron Fist and the Defenders, as well as a series focusing on Marvel hero Jessica Jones.


Netflix's original programming has earned it a lot of critical praise

In addition to TV series, Netflix has also snapped up a wide range of one-offs including stand-up comedy shows, documentaries and TV movies.

Netflix is spending $3bn on original content this year, and it's particularly keen on attracting families: earlier this month it hired Nickelodeon's senior VP of live-action development to run its kids' programming, which features shows from the likes of DreamWorks, Scholastic Media and Mattel.

Netflix's head of original content, Cindy Holland, told The Hollywood Reporter about the firm's approach. "Creating great series that our subscribers love is no.1," she says. "The two guiding metrics for us are subscriber reach and how many total hours are viewed." When Netflix licensed House of Cards, Holland was "a department of one," she says. Now she oversees a department of 16 people.

Carrie Marshall

Writer, broadcaster, musician and kitchen gadget obsessive Carrie Marshall (Twitter) has been writing about tech since 1998, contributing sage advice and odd opinions to all kinds of magazines and websites as well as writing more than a dozen books. Her memoir, Carrie Kills A Man, is on sale now. She is the singer in Glaswegian rock band HAVR.