The entertainment landscape was handed another major shake-up recently when it was revealed that Amazon is set to acquire MGM for a deal valued at nearly $8.5 billion. MGM’s vast library includes more than 4,000 movies and thousands of hours of TV. But the crown jewel of the studio’s catalog is undoubtedly the James Bond franchise. So, does that mean we are going to get a James Bond TV show or spin-offs in the near future? While that might seem like an obvious conclusion to draw, we need to pump the brakes on that one as the situation is complicated.
Yes, Amazon will own MGM and control the titles in their library once the deal closes, barring regulatory approval. Rocky. Legally Blonde. Bill & Ted. It’s all on the table. Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos has already made it clear that the acquisition is all about reimagining the titles in MGM’s vast library to bolster the Amazon Prime Video offerings. Here’s what Bezos had to say about it shortly after the deal was announced.
“The acquisition’s thesis here is really very simple. MGM has a vast deep catalogue of much beloved intellectual property. And with the talented people at MGM and the talented people at Amazon Studios, 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.”
With that in mind, it seems like a foregone conclusion that James Bond would get the expanded universe treatment. But Eon Productions, the company that also has a huge hand in 007, will have a lot of say in the matter. Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson are the shepherds of the franchise and have been for decades. Yes, MGM has the rights to finance and distribute the Bond movies but Eon maintains an almost unimaginable amount of control. They have final say when it comes to distribution, casting and virtually every major step in the process.
To that end, Broccoli and Wilson have already made a point to confirm that Bond is going to remain on the big screen going forward. So don’t expect to see No Time to Die become a Prime Video exclusive before it gets a full run in theaters. The fact of the matter is Eon has been extremely protective of Bond for a long, long time and they have resisted streaming. No Time to Die was the first major movie to be delayed when the pandemic hit in 2020. Reports swirled suggesting that various streaming services, such as Netflix and Apple TV+ offered upwards of $600 million for the rights to Daniel Craig’s final Bond flick. Broccoli and Wilson ultimately passed.
Up to this point, Eon has made it crystal clear that they see Bond as a global, theatrical franchise. Period. Would they be willing to let Amazon make a Q Branch TV show, for example? Maybe a TV series following Bond’s MI6 pal Felix Leiter? They may well see that as a path to diminishing the value of Bond as a theatrical experience. Then again, Amazon may be able to convince them otherwise. But the point is, anything that Amazon wants to do with this character the universe will need to go through Eon. It’s not like Disney with Star Wars. There are some gatekeepers who will have final say on any such decisions.
And this is precisely why many have wondered if Amazon perhaps overpaid for MGM. Consider, for example, that Disney paid $4 billion for Marvel and just over $4 billion for Lucasfilm. Combined, those purchases cost less than MGM. And the MCU has generated more than $20 billion at the box office alone. Look what the Star Wars movies have generated. Not to mention how many subscribers a show like The Mandalorian scored for Disney+. James Bond is the closest thing that MGM has to a franchise with that much appeal. And Amazon may not have an easy time exploiting it for the purposes of streaming.
The media landscape has changed so much in such a short period of time. Thanks to Netflix, streaming was already starting to dominate Hollywood. But the pandemic forced everyone’s hand. Now, HBO Max, Peacock, Disney+, Apple TV+, Hulu, Paramount+ and yes, Amazon Prime Video, among others, are all lobbying for subscribers. Exclusive, high-value movies and TV shows are one of the best ways to keep subscribers.
James Bond is one of the most enduring and successful franchises in history. Surely, looking at the global marketplace, there would be a great deal of value in TV shows and spin-offs set in that universe exclusive to Amazon Prime Video. Uninhibited, such projects would likely enter development in a hurry. Undoubtedly, the brass at Amazon will still try and make it happen. But it’s gotta go through Broccoli and Wilson first. We’ll see how that shakes out in the coming months. No Time to Die is set to hit theaters on October 8.