NEW YORK — Online shopping giant Amazon is buying MGM, the movie and TV studio behind James Bond, “Legally Blonde” and “Shark Tank,” with the hopes of filling its video streaming service with more stuff to watch.
Amazon is paying $8.45 billion for MGM, making it the company’s second-largest acquisition after it bought grocer Whole Foods for nearly $14 billion in 2017.
The deal is the latest in the media industry that’s aimed at boosting streaming services to compete against Netflix and Disney+. AT&T and Discovery announced last week that they would combine media companies, creating a powerhouse that includes HGTV, CNN, Food Network and HBO.
Amazon doesn’t say how many people watch its Prime Video service. But more than 200 million have access to it because they’re signed up for its Prime membership, which gives them faster shipping and other perks. Besides Prime Video, Amazon also has a free streaming service called IMDb TV, where Amazon makes money by playing ads during movies and shows.
Buying MGM would give Amazon access to more films, shows and famous characters, including Rocky, RoboCop and Pink Panther. Amazon will also get a cable channel: Epix, which MGM owns.
Known for its roaring lion logo, MGM is one of the oldest Hollywood studios, founded in 1924 when films were still silent. It has more than 4,000 films in its library, including classics such as “Silence of the Lambs” and “Thelma & Louise.” Amazon said it plans to tap MGM’s vast library to create new shows and movies.
More recent productions include reality TV staples “Shark Tank” and “The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills,” as well as the upcoming James Bond movie “No Time to Die” and an Aretha Franklin biopic called “Respect.”
Amazon already has its own studio but has had mixed results. Two of its shows, “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” and “Fleabag,” won best comedy series Emmys. Although it has won several Oscars, including most recently for “Sound of Metal,” many of its films have failed to click with audiences at the box office. Recently, Amazon has been spending on sports and splashy shows. It will stream “Thursday Night Football” next year and is producing a “Lord of the Rings” show, which reportedly cost $450 million for its first season alone.
Seattle-based Amazon.com Inc. declined to say when it expects the deal to be finalized. But when it does, it will make Amazon, already one of the most powerful and valuable companies in the world, even bigger. Regulators around the world are scrutinizing Amazon’s business practices, specifically the way it looks at information from businesses that sell goods on its site and uses it to create its own Amazon-branded products.
A report by the House Judiciary Committee in October called for a possible breakup of Amazon and others, making it harder for them to buy other businesses and imposing new rules to safeguard competition.
Amazon, founded in 1995 as an online bookstore, has become a $1.6 trillion behemoth that does a little bit of everything. It has a delivery business network that gets orders to people in two days or sooner; sells inhalers and insulin; has a cloud-computing business that powers the apps of Netflix and McDonald’s; and has plans to send more than 3,200 satellites into space to beam internet service to Earth.
Story by Joseph Pisani.