In case you haven’t noticed, we’re firmly in the age of entertainment conglomerates. Nearly every major studio in Hollywood either owns its own streaming service or is affiliated with one. And now MGM and Amazon are the latest big names to throw their hats into the merger ring. Following recent reports that Amazon was interested in procuring the historic Hollywood staple after the studio put out feelers for prospective buyers, both parties have confirmed that they have signed a deal that will see Amazon take ownership of MGM for $8.45 billion.
That number is a far cry from the mega-mergers of recent times. In 2018, telecommunications giant AT&T merged with Time Warner (parent company of WarnerMedia) to the staggering tune of $85 billion – and now they’re selling off WarnerMedia again for $43 billion – while Disney snatched up all of Fox, including the latter’s stake in the likes of Hulu, for $71 billion. Compared to those eye-watering figures, $8.45 billion seems like pocket change but the amount actually surprised many industry pundits.
While MGM, with its signature roaring lion, used to be one of the grandest studios in the Hollywood Golden Age, its star has faded massively over the last few decades with only a small handful of its film franchises still going strong, most notably the James Bond films. Couple its lack of drawcard franchises with the studio’s current debt – which Amazon will now also take on – and many were expecting the price to be around the $5 billion to $6 billion range. However, Amazon was clearly willing to pay whatever was needed to make this deal happen. Mike Hopkins, senior VP of Prime Video and Amazon Studios, explained why in a press statement.
MGM has a vast catalog with more than 4,000 films—12 Angry Men, Basic Instinct, Creed, James Bond, Legally Blonde, Moonstruck, Poltergeist, Raging Bull, Robocop, Rocky, Silence of the Lambs, Stargate, Thelma & Louise, Tomb Raider, The Magnificent Seven, The Pink Panther, The Thomas Crown Affair, and many other icons—as well as 17,000 TV shows—including Fargo, The Handmaid’s Tale, and Vikings—that have collectively won more than 180 Academy Awards and 100 Emmy. 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.
While Disney+ and Hulu have all of the Disney-owned studios to mine for content, HBO Max has Warner Bros., and recently rebranded CBS All Access – now Paramount+ – has Paramount Pictures, Netflix and Amazon’s Prime Video, the two other biggest streaming services, didn’t really have those deep libraries to draw from. Netflix’s answer was to sink huge amounts of money into producing original movies/series while also recently signing a deal to become Sony’s exclusive streaming partner. Meanwhile, Prime Video has slowly been beefing up its original content, but it was still lagging behind significantly. This acquisition will now be a gigantic shot in the arm to that process.
Of course, the thought that will pop into most people’s heads now will be that Amazon will start farming the James Bond franchise for various projects. This would make sense as it is the crown jewel in the MGM library, but the problem is that MGM doesn’t have all that much say over 007. The studio may handle distribution and most of the financing of the spy adventure franchise, but the rather complex James Bond rights are still owned by Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson’s EON Productions. The half-siblings’ respective families have been producing Bond films from the very beginning and have an unprecedented amount of sway on productions. MGM can barely do a thing involving the world’s most famous spy that has not been okayed by Broccoli and Wilson first, and traditionally they’ve been super-protective over their cash cow. Would they allow James Bond to maybe skip theatres and head to streaming for future installments or maybe spinoff in some fashion? It will be interesting to see what Amazon can work out with EON because there’s no way in hell they’re just going to let something as lucrative as this franchise, which currently sits a combined $7 billion box office total, just sit there. At the very least this means that the James Bond filmography will now finally find a permanent global streaming home which makes me very happy.
Do you know what else would make me very happy though? Way happier than some announcement of a James Bond spinoff TV series or something? If Amazon – you know, the company owned by Jeff Bezos, the world’s richest man and a self-proclaimed giant sci-fi/fantasy geek who has proven himself super willing to spend huge amounts of cash on acquiring and developing fan-favourite franchises like The Expanse and Lord of the Rings – WERE TO NOW ANNOUNCE A NEW STARGATE SERIES! Make it happen, you cowards!
UPDATE: Since the time of writing this article, EON has put out a statement addressing future plans for Bond films… which is that everything is staying just the way it is. Speaking to Deadline, EON states that “we are committed to continuing to make James Bond films for the worldwide theatrical audience.” So that’s that.
Last Updated: May 27, 2021