Amazon tests techie comedy 'Betas' in original programming push

Thu Nov 21, 2013 5:58pm EST
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By Piya Sinha-Roy

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - When online retail giant Amazon decided to join Netflix and Hulu in the online original programming race, it didn't have to look further than its own tech backyard to find a world ripe for comedy.

"Betas," starring newcomers Joe Dinicol, Karan Soni and Charlie Saxton as dating app entrepreneurs, explores the hyper- ambition that vibrates among the inhabitants of Northern California's tech-savvy Bay Area.

Tech entrepreneurs, Dinicol says, "are the ones shaping how human beings interact, and certainly the idea of our show is that they're not the best at interacting socially so it's sort of a perfect storm of an environment to have."

The first three episodes will be available to stream starting on Friday and follow Amazon's first original program "Alpha House," a political satire about four Republican senators living together, which was rolled out last week.

Amazon clients from its premium category Amazon Prime had selected both "Betas" and "Alpha House" from a short list as pilots. That direct consumer feedback is exactly the type of information that Amazon has mined over the years to decide what people want to buy.

Like online streaming and DVD rental company Netflix, Amazon has decided it must move beyond being a distributor of shows made by others to producing top-drawer programming of its own. Netflix made big waves this year with its first original series, "House of Cards," a political drama that took on basic cable and premium cable networks and scored three Emmy wins.

Streaming video company Hulu, owned by the Walt Disney Co, 21st Century Fox and Comcast, has also been rolling out original programming, most recently comedy series "The Wrong Mans," co-produced by the BBC, which aired earlier this month.

"Betas" executive producer Michael Lehmann said he finds the landscape "exciting, it's the new Wild West, a new frontier of premium cable with AMC, Netflix, HBO."   Continued...

A zoomed illustration image of a man looking at a computer monitor showing the logo of Amazon is seen in Vienna November 26, 2012. REUTERS/Leonhard Foeger