UPDATE: Amazon and MGM announced on March 17, 2022, that they have completed the acquisition. Read the story here. (The original report follows …)
Amazon and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer have overcome the first of two major hurdles standing in the way of the merger announced last May. Amazon is attempting to acquire the storied Hollywood studio for $8.45 billion.
Deadline reports today that antitrust regulators in the European Union have granted unconditional approval for the deal to move forward.
“Based on its market investigation, the Commission found that the transaction, as notified, would not significantly reduce competition in the markets” for the sorts of business activities that MGM and Amazon conduct, the European Commission said in a press release. That includes the production and supply of film and television content, and the licensing and distribution of films for theatrical release.
The Commission also acknowledged that “MGM’s content cannot be considered as must-have,” and that “a wide variety of alternative content exists.” Amazon also continues to face strong competition from other players in the streaming video-on-demand market, something that its ownership of MGM’s library and IP would not change.
Critics of the deal have argued that Amazon’s ownership of one of the industry’s oldest and most revered studios would put it at an unfair advantage over competitors like Netflix, Hulu, HBO Max, and Disney+.
The EU Commission had given itself a March 15 deadline to decide.
Amazon has stated that its interest in MGM is not just to bolster its SVOD library with the studio’s archive of more than 4,000 films and 17,000 TV shows. As the retail giant looks to gain a larger market share in the streaming market, it plans to utilize MGM’s intellectual property — brands like Stargate, James Bond, Rocky, Robocop, Tomb Raider, Silence of the Lambs, Fargo, Vikings, The Handmaid’s Tale, and more — to create new content with which to attract subscribers.
“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,” Mike Hopkins, Senior VP of Prime Video and Amazon Studios, said last spring. “It’s very exciting and provides so many opportunities for high-quality storytelling.”
That makes it likely that Amazon will not only add Stargate’s existing series and movies to its Prime Video streaming library, but also create new content — sooner or later.
MGM has been moving toward a sale of the independent studio since emerging from bankruptcy at the end of 2010, at which time its chief investors took over control of the company.
THE FTC’S TURN
It’s not all smooth sailing from here, though. It remains uncertain whether and how the European Union’s decision will affect the second and final big hurdle standing in the way of the Amazon-MGM deal. The U.S. Federal Trade Commission is reportedly on the cusp of deciding whether it will sue to block the acquisition, or stand aside.
Votes from the FTC’s commissioners are deadlocked 2 to 2, according to a report from The Information.
The tie breaker belongs to the next likely commissioner, Alvaro Bedoya, who was nominated to the position last fall. His nomination is currently held up in the Senate, meaning it is not likely Bedoya will be seated in time to weigh in on the Amazon-MGM deal before a decision must be made. (In the meantime, a deadlock may work in Amazon and MGM’s favor — not to mention the uphill battle that an antitrust case would face in the courts.)
As we suggested in the video recap and analysis below, a decision by the FTC not to try and block the deal would of course be the fastest route to a closure. Because Amazon is looking to leverage MGM’s brands to produce new content, once the deal is finalized some form of new Stargate production may not be far behind.
OPEN THE GATE
Fast-tracking a new Stargate series would help to fill a gap in Amazon’s Prime Video content offerings. Science fiction drama The Expanse recently concluded its final season, and other high-profile shows now in the works — notably The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power and the second season of The Wheel of Time — are squarely in the genre of high fantasy.
Amazon is also developing a series adaptation of the post-apocalyptic video game franchise Fallout — a decidedly different tone and style of science fiction.
This comes in an era when its streaming competitors are years into building sprawling genre universes. Disney+ has an astonishing ten current and announced television series set in the Star Wars universe, both live-action and animated. It is also busy building out the Marvel Cinematic Universe with numerous television series.
Over on Paramount+, the Star Trek universe continues to expand with five series in active production and numerous others on the drawing board.
Despite its 350+ hours and three movies Stargate, meanwhile, has been out of production since Stargate Universe went off the air in 2011 — that is, if you ignore the poorly received series of Web shorts Stargate Origins (2018). And with a still-active fan base and one of the original television creators standing by with a finished pilot script, Stargate is a franchise that is ripe for return.
The FTC is likely to reach its own decision within the next few days or weeks.