Amazon Lures Woody Allen to Write, Direct New TV Series


Director Woody Allen will make his first foray onto the small screen, writing and directing an online series for (NASDAQ:AMZN), the latest coup by deep-pocketed cable and streaming companies in luring the biggest names in film to television.

Continue Reading Below

The Internet retailer rolled out the news of Allen's series on Tuesday, two days after winning its first major awards at the Golden Globes following years of experimentation with streaming original programming.

Allen, 79, who has said he doesn't use email or own a computer, is a big win for Amazon, which is trying to lure more viewers to its Amazon Prime business with original TV programming by hiring well-known writers and directors.

Filmmakers such as Martin Scorsese, Steven Soderbergh, David Fincher and Guillermo del Toro have all made recent forays into television. Premium cable networks like HBO and online streaming site Netflix have offered directors the chance and resources to tell longer-form stories over several episodes and hours.

"It continues a trend we've been seeing, obliterating the line between film and TV," said Eric Deggans, the TV critic at National Public Radio. "People in film are seeing the opportunity for increased ways of expression in TV."

Allen's yet-to-be titled series will be a half-hour, Amazon said, adding that casting announcements would be made in the future.

The company said the series will be shown exclusively on its Instant Prime Video service next year.

The famously press-shy Allen joked that he was not sure how he got involved in the project.

"I have no ideas and I'm not sure where to begin," the Oscar-winning director said in a statement. "My guess is that Roy Price will regret this," he added, referring to the vice-president of Amazon Studios.

Known for his ironic and neurotic insight into contemporary life, Allen has starred in many of his own films, including generation-defining comedies like "Annie Hall" and "Manhattan."

The deal also cements Amazon's credibility following Sunday's Golden Globe win for "Transparent," which is about a man transitioning to live as a woman and how his children deal with their parent's late-in-life coming out. The show's lead, Jeffrey Tambor, also won a Globe for best actor in a TV comedy series.

"Amazon needed to prove they were a serious player in television because there was always kind of a question mark of how real are they," said Deggans. "They won two Golden Globes and with this now, they're stepping up."

Like "Transparent," Allen's upcoming series and 13 new pilots for programs that Amazon will unveil on Thursday will only be available on Prime, its $99-a-year club known for free two-day shipping.

The Amazon Studios division began operations in 2010.

(By Eric Kelsey and Lisa Richwine; Additional reporting by Anya George Tharakan in Bengaluru and Patricia Reaney in New York; Editing by Mary Milliken and Christian Plumb)