Amazon.com is letting viewers help choose its new lineup of TV shows, scuttling a secretive, wasteful process once reserved for Hollywood taste-makers.
Starting soon, the online retailing giant will debut 14 of its own TV show pilots on its website, allowing anyone from the U.S., U.K. and Germany watch them for free. The company will ask for viewer input, and hopes the comments and critiques will help decide which shows live or die.
The completed series will be available for no extra charge to subscribers of Amazon Prime, its $79-a-year rewards program. Prime, which launched in 2005 as a way to entice customers with free two-day shipping, has since expanded and allows members to borrow e-books as well as watch movies and TV shows on computers, mobile devices and Internet-connected TVs.
One of the original Amazon pilots, "Betas," is about a high-tech startup that is trying to create the world's greatest social media app, called BRB. The "Betas" shoot took place in a real-life shared workspace for app developers in Santa Monica, Calif., last month. One of the main characters is a financier played by Ed Begley Jr.
The show treads on familiar ground for the Internet pioneer company Jeff Bezos founded in a Seattle garage two decades ago.
By getting into original TV shows, Amazon is riding a wave of Internet-fueled people power that is transforming the entertainment industry. It will be competing with companies such as Netflix - which debuted its original series "House of Cards" in February - and Hulu.