Amazon Previews New Online TV Shows

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As promised, Amazon.com Inc. (NASDAQ: AMZN) has posted at its website the pilot episodes for 14 new programs the company is considering producing for its Amazon Prime subscribers. The 14 programs include eight comedies and six children’s shows, and they are available to everyone, not just Amazon Prime subscribers.

Unlike streaming video competitor Netflix Inc. (NASDAQ: NFLX), Amazon seeks input from viewers of the pilot programs and will use that input to help it decide which programs to produce in full. Netflix produced 13 episodes of its “House of Cards” series without seeking viewer feedback.

Amazon’s plan could help it avoid making a costly mistake, but soliciting viewer feedback in any significant way slows down the production process. Netflix, however, takes a bigger financial gamble by producing an entire series at one time.

The free pilot programs and the viewer survey is primarily a marketing tool for Amazon. The company is hoping that viewers will be so pleased with what they see that they will sign up for the company’s Prime service.

One threat to Amazon’s free-pilot scheme has been pointed out at The Wall Street Journal’s AllThingsD blog. The pilots have been released without the polish and production values that viewers have come to expect from TV programming. Average viewers are not used to looking at rough cuts and partially finished animation. That could lead those who fill out the surveys to rate the shows more poorly than they might if the pilots were more polished. Time will tell.

Amazon’s shares are up about 0.8% this morning, at $261.42 in a 52-week range of $185.51 to $284.72.

Netflix shares are up 2.9% at $168.58 in a 52-week range of $52.81 to $197.62.