It’s official: Amazon owns the Stargate franchise.
Today Amazon and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer announced that their plan to have the retail giant acquire the historic Hollywood studio has been formally completed — a little under 10 months after it was announced. The merger has been on the slow train of regulatory approval by U.S. and European Union antitrust agencies, and looks to have cleared the last hurdle this week … at least for the time being.
More on that in a moment.
We’ve been tracking the deal and what it will mean for the Stargate television and film franchise since the companies first announced the $8.45 billion acquisition in May of 2021. Amazon has purchased MGM for two big reasons: to bolster its Prime Video streaming video-on-demand (SVOD) offerings with MGM’s rich catalog of more than 4,000 movies and 17,000 TV shows; and to make use of MGM’s catalog of intellectual property to create new film and television projects. Below we’ll talk about each of those in turn.
Although the companies did not announce any restructuring in today’s announcement, it is expected that MGM will continue to operate as its own creative entity under the umbrella of Amazon Studios, which is overseen by Amazon’s Mike Hopkins. And Amazon said that it is not planning any layoffs at MGM, according to the Wall Street Journal.
“We are excited for MGM and its bounty of iconic brands, legendary films and television series, and our incredible team and creative partners to join the Prime Video family,” MGM’s chief operating officer Chris Brearton said in today’s statement. “MGM has been responsible for the creation of some of the most well-known and critically acclaimed films and television series of the past century. We look forward to continuing that tradition as we head into this next chapter, coming together with the great team at Prime Video and Amazon Studios to provide audiences with the very best in entertainment for years to come.”
Deadline says that Hopkins reached out to MGM employees by e-mail today, reiterating that no one is losing their job. A town hall for company employees is set for tomorrow to outline what is next.
MGM’s IP includes Stargate, James Bond, Rocky and Creed, Robocop, Vikings, The Handmaid’s Tale, Fargo, Legally Blonde, the Pink Panther, and more. As of today Amazon is in a position to green-light new projects for any of these.
That, of course, has immediate implications for the Stargate science fiction franchise.
STARGATE ON AMAZON
MGM’s catalog includes three Stargate movies (four if you count the feature cut of 2018’s Web series Stargate Origins), ten seasons of Stargate SG-1, five seasons of Stargate Atlantis, and two seasons of Stargate Universe. (There’s also 26 episodes of the short-lived animated series, Stargate Infinity.)
All said that’s 380 episodes of television and more than 275 hours of content in the Stargate franchise. Now more than 10 years after the last show went off the air, Stargate’s global fan base is also remarkably active — and noisy about our desire for new content from the studio to continue to grow the franchise.
Amazon’s ownership of MGM and Stargate will most likely have one immediate effect: the existing shows ought to be added to Prime Video’s free streaming catalog for subscribers.
SG-1, Atlantis, and Universe (and the movies) have all been available on Prime Video on a rotating basis. As Amazon’s license with MGM expired they would be removed, only to spontaneously show up again months or years later. Now that Amazon actually owns the content, Stargate is likely to find a more permanent — and global — streaming home.
The company could also continue to license the shows to other providers, such as Netflix (which currently has SG-1) and Hulu. The ongoing licensing of its content to various parties around the world is a significant part of MGM’s business. But considering the price tag for MGM, it is understandable that some of this content is bound to become an Amazon exclusive.
Given that Prime Video has had Stargate in the recent past, the shows could show up there any time. Assuming that MGM does not have any outstanding licensing arrangements that include exclusivity, Amazon could flip a switch and start streaming Stargate again tomorrow.
The Stargate franchise is well positioned to be among MGM’s franchises first to get the green light for new content. Aside from the active fan base and its ongoing campaign to support a new show set in the existing canon, co-creator Brad Wright is already waiting in the wings with a pilot script written for MGM in 2020.
As Amazon has already offered the previous shows to its Prime Video customers, it has its own in-house data on Stargate’s popularity.
Last year Amazon invested an astonishing $13 billion in video and music content, according to The Hollywood Reporter. But with The Expanse having come to an end earlier this year, there is a Stargate-sized hole in Prime’s lineup of original science fiction. (The service offers the Star Trek franchise not as Amazon Studios original series but only in a carriage deal with Paramount.)
Hopkins reportedly wrote to MGM’s employees: “Now that the deal has closed and we are able to shift from planning to working together, we’ll be collaborating with MGM leaders on the opportunities ahead in the coming weeks.”
Giving a go-ahead to MGM and Wright to produce the first season of a fourth live-action, in-canon television series would be the easiest and most logical choice at this stage. But Amazon could also explore other types of productions for the Stargate brand — from a movie or miniseries picking up on the unfinished stories of Atlantis and Universe, to a theatrical feature film, to the dreaded hard reboot of the fictional universe. Each of these would, of course, come with its own production and publicity challenges.
MGM/Amazon will almost certainly make another Stargate at some point. Whether I'll be asked to have anything further to do with it is less certain.
— Brad Wright (@bradtravelers) February 1, 2022
Wright has said that his show would continue the existing canon, introducing a new team of characters while also making space for fan favorites to return. Over the past year he has revealed that his pilot script already includes Amanda Tapping’s Samantha Carter, Michael Shanks’ Daniel Jackson, and Ben Browder’s Cameron Mitchell. It would also be set in a world where the existence of the Stargate has been revealed to the public.
A new production would also stand to raise Stargate’s profile among Amazon’s growing global audience. A reported 175 million Prime customers have watched streaming video on the service at some point.
With the right strategy, Stargate’s fictional universe could be expanded in multiple directions. A committed Amazon and MGM could craft its own bona fide cinematic universe, with numerous new stories and characters eventually joining the ranks of SG-1, the Atlantis expedition, and the crew of Destiny.
Amazon’s declared intentions to buy MGM faced scrutiny by regulators, including the Federal Trade Commission — whose new chair Lina Khan has been an outspoken opponent of Amazon’s business practices and its integration of multiple business sectors. But the FTC’s commissioners reportedly have been split 2–2 in a decision over whether to file a lawsuit to try and block the deal.
Meanwhile this week antitrust regulators in the EU announced that they have finished their own review of the Amazon-MGM merger and given it unrestricted approval. The EU Commission stated Tuesday that the merger “would not significantly reduce competition in the markets,” since MGM’s content is not considered “must-have.” Amazon’s Prime Video service also continues to face plenty of stiff competition in the SVOD market.
By contrast, the FTC does not have to issue any sort of public finding as to its final actions — and so far it hasn’t. Today’s news comes from Amazon and MGM not because the FTC formally OK’ed the deal, but because a statutory deadline has passed. The FTC is required to act within a set timeframe after a company provides all requested documentation needed for it to make a proper evaluation. In face of a likely tie vote at the FTC, rather than call for a formal vote on the matter Khan allowed for the deadline to pass.
Today’s announcement from Amazon and MGM did not include any reference to the antitrust deliberations.
While the FTC is not publicly commenting on the deal’s closure today, a representative told the Wall Street Journal that the agency does not approve transactions and that it reserves the right to make legal challenges to any deals that they find violate U.S. antitrust law. That means Amazon and MGM aren’t completely out of the woods yet. Khan’s FTC has previously issued warnings to companies that they proceed with mergers at their own risk.
But Politico reports that sources familiar with the situation tell them that the Commission will not challenge the deal — a setback for Khan’s antitrust agenda.
Meanwhile Amazon and MGM are moving ahead with normal business operations — in Hopkins’ words, shifting “from planning to working together.” That’s a very good signal for Stargate‘s return to Prime Video streaming, as well as the potential of a new production announcement in the not-too-distant future.
This is the second largest acquisition deal from Amazon, behind its purchase of Whole Foods for $13.7 billion back in 2017. But the MGM buyout is way, way down the list of major media mergers over the past decade, dwarfed by the likes of AT&T and Time Warner ($85 billion) and Disney and Fox ($71.3 billion).
Keep your browser locked on GateWorld for the very latest on Stargate’s future.