Amazon is getting into the news business, once again proving that the company’s appetite for new industries knows no limits.
The Seattle company has signed a deal with Investigative Reporting Productions (INC), a nonprofit organization that produces, distributes and monetizes stories from the staff and students at UC Berkeley’s Investigative Reporting Program.
John Temple, managing editor of the Investigative Reporting Program, announced the deal on the media and tech analysis blog Monday Note.
Amazon has agreed to buy “first look” rights to documentaries produced by the INC, according to the blog post. Under the arrangement, Amazon gets to consider stories before any other outlet and develop the ones the company’s Prime Video team is interested in.
“The affiliation agreement, gives the company the right to license the intellectual property generated by the IRP’s staff,” writes Temple. “In turn, the work, which will adhere to the highest standards, will carry the imprimatur of the university, helping to ensure the public of its reliability.”
News media has long been a passion of Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos. In 2013, he took that passion to the next level by purchasing The Washington Post for $250 million. Just last week, he donated $1 million to the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, a group that provides free legal resources and support to journalists.
But the Berkeley deal is the first time Amazon itself has made a meaningful step toward becoming a news publisher. The announcement comes as Amazon ramps up its video offerings across a wide range of genres.
Amazon doubled its video content spending during the second half of 2016 compared to the same period in 2015. It nearly tripled the new Amazon original TV shows and movies it offers and the company is estimated to spend $4.5 billion on video this year. Video content is one of the many perks Amazon uses to entice customers to sign up for is annual Prime membership program.
Temple hopes that with Amazon’s support, the IRP can create as sustainable business model for investigative journalism, which can no longer rely on the traditional ad revenue model alone.
“New opportunities have emerged with the rise of streaming video services and the resulting demand for quality nonfiction programming,” he writes. “While the financial terms of our agreement are confidential, it’s widely known that documentaries can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars, and it’s safe to say funding is one important reason we’re joining up with Amazon.”