Amazon buys Hollywood studio MGM in $8.45bn deal

Battle for streaming supremacy hots up after acquisition of studio behind James Bond franchise

Last modified on Wed 26 May 2021 10.55 EDT

Amazon has acquired MGM, the Hollywood studio behind the James Bond and Rocky franchises, in an $8.45bn deal as the battle for global streaming supremacy reaches new heights.

The scale of the deal far exceeds the $5bn (£3.5bn) price tag mooted when the studio put itself up for sale in December, as the fight to secure must-watch franchises fuels fierce bidding wars for owners of increasingly scarce “crown jewel” content.

MGM was also courted by Apple, and the Sky owner, Comcast, which both ultimately balked at the size of the cheque Amazon was willing to write. It has a library of 4,000 film titles and 17,000 hours of TV programming, from Gone with the Wind and The Hobbit to TV hits such as The Handmaid’s Tale.

It is the second-largest deal ever struck by Amazon, the world’s second-largest streaming service, with 175m global users, after its acquisition of Whole Foods for $13.7bn in 2017.

“The real financial value behind this deal is the treasure trove of intellectual property in the deep catalogue that we plan to reimagine and develop together with MGM’s talented team,” said Mike Hopkins, senior vice-president of Prime Video and Amazon Studios.

MGM explored the potential of releasing the next film in the James Bond franchise, its 59-year-old crown jewel, on a digital streaming service as the coronavirus pandemic kept cinemas closed for much of the last year. Daniel Craig’s last appearance as 007, in No Time to Die, is scheduled to premiere in cinemas in September and is likely to be the biggest international box office hit of the year.

Amazon spent $11bn on content last year, up from $7.8bn in 2019, as it invests increasingly heavily into winning subscribers to its Prime subscription service. Amazon is vying for global streaming supremacy with Netflix, which has more than 200m subscribers, and Disney+, which in the 18 months since its launch has rapidly grown to more than 100m subscribers.

Four years ago, Amazon splashed out $1bn on the rights to make six TV series in the world of Lord of the Rings after its founder, Jeff Bezos, reportedly cited Game of Thrones as the sort of hit he wanted to be produced to drive the growth of the company’s streaming service.

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