Amazon Instant Video Takes on Netflix with Alpha House
Michael Record
Nov 20, 2013

Amazon Studios original Alpha house

Amazon have finally moved beyond the ‘pilot stage’ for their original programming and have launched the first of their home-grown show, Alpha House, starring John Goodman. They have proclaimed it to be the most watched programme on their streaming service (Amazon Instant Video) last weekend, although, as they don’t release viewing figures, we’ll have to take their word for it.

Amazon have been espying competitor Netflix as the streaming giant bathes in critical plaudits for such original programming as: the Emmy Award-winning political drama; House Of Cards, prison comedy-drama, Orange Is The New Black; and gothic horror show, Hemlock Grove (not to mention the Arrested Development revival). I detailed recently how Amazon Studios have been working diligently behind the scenes to develop pilots, and with Alpha House we finally have a fully fledged show hitting our screens. A show which, in a similar vein to Netflix originals, has been promoted heavily over the Amazon Instant Video service in preparation for its launch.

Alpha House is a political-comedy that follows four US Senators who share the same rented house in downtown D.C. They face re-election battles, problems with popularity, defending themselves against cloak-and-dagger treachery, and going to Afghanistan in a move that is all about survival and nothing about politics. The show is written by Garry Trudeau, best known for the Doonesbury comic strip.

Although the first three episodes of Alpha House will be available for general viewing on Amazon Instant Video, the rest of the series will air weekly and will only be viewable to subscription holders to Amazon’s ‘Prime’ service, not dissimilar to how HBO release teasers but keep the main content behind a paywall. As Amazon has taken so damn long to actually get a show out, you cannot fault them for being cautious – if not a bunch of filthy teases; its a complete contrast to Netflix’s approach  of making an entire series available simultaneously, treating us like the gluttons they know us to be.

The reviews of Alpha House are generally good (with weighted-average review collecting site, Metacritc, awarding a rating of 70, meaning ‘generally favourable’) so we can presume that Amazon will be buoyed by the apparent success and press on with releasing some more damn shows (including one written by Chris Carter – creator of The X-Files – that is being trialled now). Although it’s easy to poke fun at a studio proclaiming their own show to be raking in the views – while said view counts are not actually revealed to the public – that’s exactly what Netflix has been doing with House Of Cards, and that show comfortably netted an Emmy.

The world of big money business is cottoning on to web series as the way to go, bypassing the traditional network television format entirely. It would certainly be great to see some competition against Netflix’s (albeit, well-earned) monopoly in this area.

Keep an eye on Amazon, they’ve generally done quite well at this business thing over the years…