After calling FX home for several years, Atlanta creator Donald Glover is reportedly moving to Amazon with an overall deal worth eight figures, according to multiple publications. The news was first reported by The Hollywood Reporter.
As part of the deal, Glover will work on a series of projects for Amazon, including the recently announced Mr. and Mrs. Smith series, which he’ll star in alongside Fleabag creator Phoebe Waller-Bridge. (Waller-Bridge also has an overall deal with Amazon.) One rumored project includes Hive, which is centered on a “Beyoncé-like figure,” according to the Reporter. Glover’s most popular show, Atlanta, will continue at FX where the show is set for a third and fourth season.
Arguably, the most interesting aspect of the deal is that Amazon will create “a content channel of sorts that will spotlight Glover’s work and other curated content on Amazon’s Prime Video hub,” according to the Reporter. It’s unclear if Glover will have control over the curated works that appear on his own channel. If that’s the case, however, it could become a key creative and product feature that accomplishes two important tasks for Amazon Prime Video in particular — showcasing the impressive talent working with the company and fighting “algorithm fatigue.”
Amazon Prime Video could be one of the better streaming platforms, but its terrible product interface and browsing capabilities can make it a pain to use. It’s even more baffling that Amazon’s team hasn’t figured out a way to fix this considering the roster of talent the company has on deck. Waller-Bridge, Steve McQueen (Small Axe), Jordan Peele (Us), Gloria Calderón Kellett (One Day at a Time), Lisa Joy and Jonathan Nolan (Westworld), Lena Waithe (The Chi), and Amy Sherman-Palladino and Daniel Palladino (Marvelous Mrs. Maisel) are just some of the most prolific creators, but their work gets lost in the mess that is Prime Video’s current setup.
Adding a specific “channel” that exists on Amazon Prime Video’s homepage and highlights a creator’s work is a better form of marketing for the type of series and films Amazon has. It’s a marketing and product tactic being used by many streaming platforms in slightly different ways. HBO Max allows subscribers to click on an actor or director’s “playlist” and see what they’ve been watching. For example, Lovecraft Country actor Jurnee Smollett’s playlist celebrating Black History Month and Black film can be seen in the screenshot below.
Other streaming services like Peacock and Discovery Plus have dedicated channels for specific series or creators. On these platforms, the idea is to replicate the feeling of live TV for people who want to throw on something like House Hunters or Saturday Night Live and not touch the remote again. On HBO Max and Amazon, the strategy is creating a feeling of curation from the talent working on shows and films that are available to stream. (This is also a strategy that that Criterion Channel’s streaming service and film streaming platform MUBI mainly focus on.) If Netflix gave Martin Scorsese his own channel, for example, and handed over a list of films the company had the rights to stream, he could include The Irishman and other films he truly adores.
As is everything with the industry right now, it all comes back to Scorsese. The director wrote an essay in Harper’s about Italian director Federico Fellini and touched upon the necessity of cinema in an algorithm-defined, everything-is-content world. Algorithm fatigue isn’t new, nor is Scorsese the only one frustrated by it.
It’s a tricky thing to get right. Most subscribers likely enjoy that Netflix’s recommendation algorithm helps surface shows or movies they’ll likely be interested in. There are thousands of things to sift through otherwise. At the same time, developing creative product features that highlight an artist’s work and make it feel like a more personal connection to film or television — and less like another piece of content — is crucial to making a platform feel like a hub for great TV and film instead of just a storage space for any kind of content.