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The Rings of Power and Other Big TV Swings Aren't Exactly Paying Off for Amazon

Will the Lord of the Rings prequel and Citadel prove themselves worth their huge price tags?
  • Nazanin Boniadi and Morfydd Clark in The Lord of the Rings: Rings of Power (Photo: Prime Video)
    Nazanin Boniadi and Morfydd Clark in The Lord of the Rings: Rings of Power (Photo: Prime Video)

    Amazon Studios bet big on Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power — Season 1 had a budget of $715 million, making it the most expensive series ever made. But its big debut didn’t lead to much more than that, and according to The Hollywood Reporter, only 37 percent of domestic viewers watched the entire series.

    Amazon Studios head Jennifer Salke doesn’t seem too worried about those numbers, which are less than ideal in the industry, telling THR that she has high hopes for what Season 2 has to offer. But recent news of struggles on the set of the new season are foreboding. On March 21, a horse died of a heart attack on set, and on April 3 a fire broke out at Bray Studios, the U.K. location where the show is filmed. While neither caused production to stop for long, each was an added cost on an already pricey production.

    The studio is also putting much of its faith in the second-most expensive series to date, Citadel. Creative differences sent production into an expensive round of reshoots, driving up the cost to nearly $300 million. That shift altered the original structure of the first season, which consists of eight hour-long episodes as part of the original plan. Now Season 1 contains six 40-minute episodes instead, which would make each episode’s cost around $50 million if the budget did in fact add up to $300 million. For context, two episodes of Citadel cost more than the entire first season of Prime Video’s A League of Their Own, which is rumored to be getting a truncated final season at the streamer.

    And the spending on Citadel is far from over — THR reports that Amazon has already signed on for three seasons of three versions of the show, with productions already underway for Italian and Indian iterations of the series. The first episode of the American version doesn’t even premiere until April 28, but whether or not the viewership meets the studio executives’ expectations, they’ve put themselves firmly on the hook to invest millions more into the franchise.

    It’s not just the threat of a similarly low completion rate that Amazon is fighting against with these big-budget series — The Rings of Power also failed to get the critical and awards attention Amazon was likely hoping for. All six episodes of Citadel will premiere just before the window for 2023 Emmy nominations closes, and whether the viewership is there or not, award recognition could convince studio heads that the massive bet was worth it. But if not, Amazon will have to find other ways to justify producing two of the most expensive series in television history.

    Brianna Wellen is a TV Reporter at Primetimer who became obsessed with television when her parents let her stay up late to watch E.R. 

    TOPICS: Amazon Studios, Amazon Prime Video, Citadel, A League of Their Own, The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power