Why Amazon's deal for MGM supercharges James Bond's brand appeal
MGM is most famous for owning the James Bond franchise, and the infinitely marketable espionage character might as well change his name to James Brand, if Amazon buys the company.
Amazon is reportedly close to a multibillion-dollar deal to buy MGM and its blockbuster library, and the acquisition would have serious implications for the future of advertising on properties like “007,” “Rocky,” and TV shows like “Shark Tank.” Advertisers anticipate even deeper future brand integrations with Bond, a movie that is famous for showcasing tech, auto and luxury products. With Amazon, the connection to commerce would make those brand tie-ins even more shoppable, according to advertisers.
“One thing Amazon and IMDb TV are looking to do is to connect with commerce in a way that is unique and powerful for consumers,” says Mark Book, senior VP and head of content at Digitas.
MGM loads Bond films with marketing—think, Aston Martin cars, Omega watches and Heineken beer. If Amazon has its way, those brand shoutouts could point viewers to sales. Amazon owns Prime Video, IMDb TV, Fire TV and Twitch, which all have interactivity in their advertising. For instance, Prime Video has an “X-Ray” feature, which is a pause screen that leads viewers to more information about shows and movies. Amazon has promoted X-Ray as a potential venue for brands to present more information, too, Book says.
“When you think of MGM, you first think ‘James Bond,’ and there is a unique selling proposition for James Bond products,” Book says. “Brands come in to take over that space and then connect specifically to commerce through Amazon.com.”
It’s not a secret that Amazon has evolved into the biggest online shopping destination, and that it has Hollywood aspirations, competing with Netflix, WarnerMedia, Disney and NBC Universal in streaming. There has been a flurry of mergers and acquisitions among streaming media companies and movie and TV studios. AT&T, for instance, is spinning off WarnerMedia and HBO Max in a deal with Discovery, announced this month. Disney bought Fox for $70 billion in 2019. It’s an arms race for movies and TV to beef up streaming video subscriptions, many of which have ad-supported services.
All the major digital media players recently competed for brands at the NewFronts advertising showcase this month. Amazon has been in talks with ad agencies and brands about the future of advertising across its platforms. Many of those discussions are about how brands can integrate into the programming, which is especially useful on channels that don’t show ads, like Prime Video.
Amazon is reportedly interested in buying MGM, in a deal that could close as early as Tuesday. MGM owns unscripted shows like “Shark Tank” and “Survivor” that have always had the potential for natural brand integrations. And it owns titles like “Rocky,” which would bring a famous franchise with a sports theme to Amazon.
Amazon has been offering brand integrations into shows that cost between $300,000 and $500,000 on the low end. But the most intensive marketing offerings can cost more than $10 million, according to advertising executives who spoke on condition of anonymity. Amazon was not immediately available for comment for this story.
One of Amazon’s biggest deals this year was with the National Football League, giving it rights to produce and stream Thursday Night Football exclusively, starting in 2022. Amazon is looking to partner early with sponsors as it builds its NFL streaming programs from the ground up, advertisers say. Amazon’s ad business is soaring, too, rising 77% year-over-year in the first quarter to $6.9 billion.
Brian Wieser, GroupM’s global president of business intelligence, says that there is “a lot of value in having top-tier premium content” of the sort that MGM owns. It is unclear how the rights are structured for every show and movie in the catalog. For instance, there could be considerations about how Amazon is allowed to develop the Bond franchise, given the rights still retained by the holding company Danjaq.
Also, some of MGM’s biggest shows, like “The Handmaid’s Tale,” stream on rival properties like Hulu, which is owned by Disney. Still, MGM’s library has the type of movies and shows that would naturally fit into IMDb TV, which is a free, ad-supported service accessible through Fire TV and Prime Video.
On top of MGMs’ prestige programming, like Bond and “The Hobbit,” there are unscripted shows and realty TV, which compete with the type of content put out by TV networks like Discovery. Amazon has been interested in unscripted shows about home repairs, cooking, fitness and general interest as vehicles to drive direct-to-consumer commerce.
Wieser points to MGM shows like “The Voice,” “Survivor” and “Real Housewives” as unscripted TV that could bolster Amazon. “Why this matters to the universe of advertising is they do get a deep library of content, older movies, older TV shows,” Wieser says. “That helps flesh out IMDb, that will help flesh out Prime Video, and get top-tier originals that have been distributed through other services, but could now go through Amazon Prime.”
One program of special interest is “The Apprentice,” which was produced by Mark Burnett at MGM Studios. It is possible that any deal for MGM could include former President Donald Trump’s show, the back catalog and the infamous behind-the-scenes tapes from the show. Those tapes have been the subject of lawsuits with plaintiffs trying to get MGM to disclose the material in court.
An email for comment was not immediately returned by Trump’s team, but the former president has fought against the release of those tapes. The former president also has a notoriously combative relationship with Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon.
“I don’t think that owning rights to ‘The Apprentice’ means much for Amazon, as it would seem unlikely that the franchise would be revived,” Wieser says.
Correction: Danjaq is the name of the holding company that still retains trademark and other rights associated with the Bond franchise. Danjaq also controls Eon Productions, a company that has produced dozens of Bond films. Danjaq is managed by the family of Albert R. Broccoli, the co-founder of Danjaq. An earlier version of this story mischaracterized the entity that shares interest in Bond alongside MGM.