The streaming wars have gone up a notch after Amazon confirmed its intent to acquire veteran filmmaker MGM for $8.45bn.
MGM (or Metro Goldwyn Mayer) has logged nearly a century in the moving pictures business in its various guises and has an impressive catalog of films, including Robocop, Rocky, Silence of the Lambs and the James Bond franchise.
The Bond series is co-owned by Eon Productions and has been quite the moneymaker over the years, although the latest entry in the series, No Time to Die has suffered repeated delays due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The film, the 25th in the Bond series (if one excludes non-Eon films like the original Casino Royale and Never Say Never Again) is expected to be Daniel Craig's last outing as the British Secret Intelligence Service agent.
Craig's departure leaves a vacancy, and while it is fanciful to wonder if Amazon's Jeff Bezos might fancy a crack at the role, we suspect he would be more suited to playing the next Bond baddie. In fact, it is difficult to imagine many at the top of the tech world who would fit the role of anything other than a supervillain.
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The prize for Amazon is in MGM's huge archive of TV and film. Mike Hopkins, senior veep of Prime Video and Amazon Studios, said: "The real financial value behind this deal is the treasure trove of IP in the deep catalog that we plan to reimagine and develop together with MGM's talented team. It's very exciting and provides so many opportunities for high-quality storytelling."
Although the thought of yet more "reimagining" from the studios may leave one vaguely queasy, the purchase is a shot across the bows for Disney, which recently passed the 100 million subscriber mark for its Disney+ service, and streaming heavyweight Netflix, which announced a slowing in growth to 208 million paid subscribers in April.
This whole thing raises a question: by acquiring MGM, Amazon gets the studio that owned The Apprentice, which starred Donald Trump, and so does that mean Bezos gets the ex-president's outtakes tapes from the show? It's probably not that straightforward though it's amusing to think about given the clash between Trump and the billionaire.
Meanwhile, Bezos's home state's senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) added an amendment earlier this month to the Endless Frontier Act calling for an extra $10bn for Moon landing funding. Bezos' Blue Origin space biz was dropped from a list of suppliers for NASA's latest Moon shot in favor of SpaceX, and the extra funds look likely to support a second contract for support, which Blue Origin stands a good shot of winning.
This has caused a row with Senate firebrand Bernie Saunders (I-VT), who questioned of the logic of subsidizing someone who's not short of spare cash.
"Jeff Bezos is the richest guy on the planet. He's gotten $86 billion richer since the start of the COVID pandemic. Does he really need $10 billion from Congress for space exploration?" the senator asked. ®