Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and Amazon today announced that the tech giant will purchase the historic Hollywood studio, confirming earlier reports. The sale price is a whopping $8.45 billion, which includes MGM’s current debt.
Amazon Prime Video and Amazon Studios’ Senior Vice President, Mike Hopkins, stated that the company’s chief motivation for the acquisition is to exploit MGM’s deep library of film and television IP (intellectual property) for new productions. On the film side that includes the likes of the James Bond and Rocky franchises, plus Legally Blonde, Robocop, Silence of the Lambs, the Pink Panther, and much more.
MGM’s scripted television holdings include Vikings, The Handmaid’s Tale, Fargo … and, of course, Stargate.
“The real financial value behind this deal is the treasure trove of IP in the deep catalog that we plan to reimagine and develop together with MGM’s talented team,” Hopkins said. “It’s very exciting and provides so many opportunities for high-quality storytelling.” He identified Stargate specifically in his list of MGM’s IP.
Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos also commented on the deal today. He said: “The acquisition thesis here is really very simple. MGM has a vast, deep catalog of much beloved intellectual property. And with the talent at Amazon and the talent at MGM Studio, we can reimagine and develop that IP for the 21st century. It will be a lot of fun work and people who love stories will be the big beneficiaries.”
So what does this deal mean for the future of Stargate? The science fiction franchise ruled cable television for a decade and a half, but fans have waited more than a decade since the last show went off the air. Aside from 2018’s Web series Stargate Origins (which had a lukewarm reception by long-time fans), the TV franchise has laid fallow since 2011. Series co-creator Brad Wright has been developing a new show since at least 2019, but it has yet to gain lift-off — thanks in part to the COVID-19 delays on television production.
READY TO GO
Amazon is highly motivated to put new projects into production. This seems to be the missing ingredient with getting a new Stargate series going at MGM, which is historically risk-averse. The studio has never commented publicly on Wright’s project even being in development, let alone sending it into production.
MGM board chairman Kevin Ulrich said in a statement, “I am very proud that MGM’s Lion, which has long evoked the Golden Age of Hollywood, will continue its storied history, and the idea born from the creation of United Artists lives on in a way the founders originally intended, driven by the talent and their vision. The opportunity to align MGM’s storied history with Amazon is an inspiring combination.”
Founded in 1924, MGM will continue to operate as a label under the deal, as a production arm for Amazon.
Among all of the fictional worlds owned by MGM, Stargate is among the closest to launch. Wright’s pitch for a new Stargate series is ready to go, with at least one script written already. And if our speculation is right that by now Wright and MGM would have already taken this pitch out to potential broadcast partners, it’s also possible that Amazon’s programming executives are already familiar with it.
So while fans have to wait a bit longer for the decision to be made, things do look positive that Amazon will want to make a new Stargate project — and that one is prepped and ready for them to take advantage of immediately.
MOVE FORWARD WITH FANS
Realistically, though, Amazon’s acquisition of MGM also resets the board somewhat. Any existing Stargate pitch could be sent back to the negotiating table, now that Amazon effectively has interests on both sides of that deal. Today they are not just a potential streaming home, paying a license to MGM for first-run rights to a new series. They’re also about to become the parent company of the studio producing the series.
Hopefully Amazon’s decision-makers will see Wright’s project as the best way forward for Stargate, and quickly green-light the project for 2022. But that is by no means certain. On the opposite end of that, Amazon could send it back into development once again — or pass on the pitch in favor of a hard reboot of Stargate.
Stargate’s loud and global fan base has been petitioning MGM not just for new content, but for a new series that is set in the existing canon of the television universe. The fact that Wright himself is willing to return to the franchise and create that show is a gift, both to fans and to MGM and Amazon.
With support from former Stargate writer and executive producer Joseph Mallozzi, in 2018 and 2019 fans organized two “tweetstorm” social media campaigns to raise awareness for Stargate and let the studio know that fans want a new series — one that continues the existing universe, and not a reboot.
Mallozzi weighed in yesterday on a possible acquisition by Amazon, before the deal was confirmed today. “There’s no doubt that if this sale is finalized, we will see a new Stargate series sooner than later,” Mallozzi wrote on his blog. “The big question is ‘What will this new series look like?’ It’s no secret that longtime Stargate (SG-1, Atlantis, Universe) co-creator Brad Wright has been developing a new show. In a best case scenario, an executive familiar with the franchise, and its amazing fandom, will recognize the huge potential there and fast-track his series. In the worst case scenario, someone else is brought in, 20 years of canon gets wiped out, and the fans get screwed.
“The latter is, in my view, most unlikely. Still, it wouldn’t hurt to let Amazon know that the Stargate fandom is still strong, active, noisy, and happy to support Brad’s new in-canon series.”
One outstanding question is almost certainly answered by Amazon’s acquisition of MGM: where a new Stargate series would be available. While it may not always be the case, today Amazon’s chief concern is to flood its own over-the-top digital streaming service with content — both new original films and TV series, and classics from MGM’s vault.
That service, Amazon Prime Video, is available in more than 200 countries worldwide.
Amazon is also growing its streaming offerings more and more into the world of science ficton and fantasy — always a reliable way to reach young and tech-savvy audiences. It acquired The Expanse (reportedly a Bezos favorite) after Syfy Channel cancelled the series, giving it another three seasons. The show has thrived on Prime Video, with top-quality production values and no evidence of creative interference.
Amazon has recently announced that The Wheel of Time, based on Robert Jordan’s bestselling novels and co-produced with Sony Pictures Television, will exclusively stream on Amazon Prime Video in more than 240 countries and territories worldwide. The series has also been renewed for a second season ahead of its upcoming premiere.
Finally, Amazon’s highest profile series now in development is based on J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings. Set in an age before the popular novels and films, that show has received an astounding $465 million production budget — just for its first season — in order to build out the world for a series (or franchise) that Amazon hopes will run for years to come.
All of this bodes well for Stargate’s prospects on Prime Video. Over the past two years Amazon has put its money where its mouth is, showing its commitment to genre programming; its willingness to let creatives make the shows they want to make; and the money to properly fund high-quality productions.
Yes, it does mean a new Stargate show likely will be locked behind a subscription service rather than airing on ad-supported television. But Prime Video’s reach also offers the Stargate fan community something it has never experienced before, in the long and storied history of this franchise: a global premiere.
Historically Stargate SG-1, Stargate Atlantis, and Stargate Universe aired first in the United States. Viewers in the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, France, Italy, and so many other places where Stargate was popular had to wait weeks or even months for the new season to finally arrive on their local broadcaster. (Meanwhile the Internet was a minefield of spoilers.)
That was the traditional model of TV distribution — one country at a time, with staggered premiere dates as a show slowly made its way from one territory to the next. And as the show’s fandom coalesed online, viewers were forced to cope with this fragmented reality. MGM’s broadcast deals varied from country to country, so the shows’ availability (and at times even their broadcast quality) was inconsistent.
With a global player like Amazon now a new home for Stargate, new episodes are likely to debut all over the world at the same time. That suitably modern distribution model puts fans on an even playing field to enjoy the show, and to participate in online conversations.
All of this is pretty exciting to us: a stable home for Stargate, with a global reach, a healthy production budget, and a studio that is looking for new content right now. But of course today, with the announcement of Amazon’s purchase still brand new, it’s all hope and speculation. Great meals still take time to cook — and corporate acquisitions like this are subject to approval by government regulators.
Variety reports that insiders believe the deal will be finalized by the end of the year.
When it comes to green-lighting new productions, we don’t know if Amazon and MGM will be forced to sit on their hands until that date. It may be that the companies can still set their plans, but make all contracts contingent upon the sale and then wait to make formal announcements after it is finalized.
But we’re excited and optimistic about what Amazon might mean for Stargate’s future. Fans are more than ready for new, quality content. Fans need to let Amazon know that we want Brad Wright’s universe to be continued with a new show. And GateWorld will continue to report on the latest developments.