In September, Amazon unveiled a revolutionary new strategy for its streaming service: make a hit on the same scale as Game of Thrones. On Monday, it became clear just how literally Amazon is taking this strategy when it officially announced its plans to make J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings novels into a multiseason TV series (with the possibility of spinoffs as well). Not much is known about the series — the announcement did not include any names on the creative side — but Amazon did note that the show would take place before the events of The Fellowship of the Ring, so it won’t be a total rehash of Peter Jackson’s movie trilogy.
According to Deadline, Amazon shelled out somewhere between $200 million and $250 million just for the global television rights. It’s also expected to spend at least $100 million per season; so, if you do the math, a minimum of two seasons, combined with the initial TV rights, makes this at least a $400 million gambit for Amazon. (Just to get an idea of how insanely expensive this is for a TV show, the six-episode final season of Game of Thrones will cost HBO an estimated $15 million per episode, or $90 million total.)
The similarities between Lord of the Rings and Game of Thrones — fantasy series with established IPs, set in a medievalesque world with lengthy tomes to pull from — are obvious, with George R.R. Martin’s massively popular series intentionally subverting some of the fantasy tropes associated with Tolkien’s novels. And to be sure, Jackson’s Lord of the Rings movies were huge commercial and critical hits, so there does seem to be a market for this TV series. And in the post-streaming, Peak TV landscape we now live in, perhaps big spending and outsize budgets will be one way companies — particularly ones like Amazon, which can afford to open its wallet — attempt to emerge from the pack.
However, expectations will be high. Amazon is putting a ton of money into this show a month after losing $160 million on a David O. Russell drama series; it was nixed due to its ties with disgraced producer Harvey Weinstein. The company is taking a giant, expensive risk. For Amazon’s sake, this better be the next Game of Thrones.
Disclosure: HBO is an initial investor in The Ringer.