Amazon boosts video streaming service with £5.97bn deal to buy MGM

Amazon is buying MGM, the movie and TV studio behind James Bond, Legally Blonde and Shark Tank, in an effort to fill out its video streaming service.

The online shopping giant is paying 8.45 billion dollars (£5.97 billion) for MGM, making it the company’s second-largest acquisition after it bought grocer Whole Foods for nearly 14 billion dollars in 2017.

The deal is the latest in the media industry aimed at boosting streaming services to compete against Netflix and Disney+.

TV apps
(Nick Ansell/PA)

AT&T and Discovery announced on May 17 that they would combine media companies, creating a powerhouse that includes HGTV, CNN, Food Network and HBO.

Amazon does not say how many people watch its Prime Video service, but more than 200 million have access to it because they are signed up for its Prime membership, which gives them faster delivery and other perks.

Amazon said on Wednesday that it would use MGM’s vast library, which includes famous characters such as Rocky, RoboCop and Pink Panther, to create new movies and shows.

MGM is one of the oldest studios in Hollywood, founded in 1924 when films were still silent, but its shine has faded considerably over the years. In the mid-1980s, it sold much of its pre-1948 catalogue, including The Wizard Of Oz and Gone With The Wind, which is now owned by Warner Bros, and its sprawling California site was bought by Sony.

For much of the past decade, MGM juggled bankruptcy and a revolving door of owners while its new releases dwindled.

Long up for sale, MGM’s desirability was lessened, not just because of its partially auctioned-off library, but because its prized property — James Bond — is not owned outright. MGM splits ownership of it with Barbara Broccoli and Michael G Wilson, who have ultimate control over the franchise.

The release of the latest 007 film, No Time to Die, has been on hold through the pandemic, with an autumn release now planned.

Daniel Craig and Ana de Armas in No Time to Die
Daniel Craig and Ana de Armas in No Time to Die (Nicola Dove/Danjaq, LLC/MGM/PA)

Its other upcoming movies include Paul Thomas Anderson’s next film, Soggy Bottom, starring Bradley Cooper; Ridley Scott’s House Of Gucci, with Lady Gaga and Adam Driver; and the upcoming Aretha Franklin biopic Respect, with Jennifer Hudson.

Its library still includes more than 4,000 movies, including Silence Of The Lambs and Thelma & Louise, and 17,000 TV shows, such as reality TV staples Shark Tank and The Real Housewives Of Beverly Hills.

Amazon will also get cable channel Epix out of the deal.

The firm 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. However, 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 dollars (£318 million) for its first season alone.

Regulators around the world are scrutinising 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 break-up 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 dollar (£1.1 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.