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Will new original programming soften the blow of Amazon’s Prime price hike?

Amazon has announced it is pulling the trigger on four all-new original programs for its expanding Amazon Prime Instant Video streaming service. The new shows were plucked from the company’s second round of pilots, previewed to a select group of viewers for feedback. 

Especially intriguing among the new shows are Amazon’s first ever dramas, including an ambitious effort written and directed by X-files creator Chris Carter called The Afters. According to Variety, the drama, which stars Jamie Kennedy, Aldis Hodge, and Arielle Kebell, is centered around 8 strangers who are thrown together in a “violent world that defies explanation.” The show is set in a cloud of mysterious circumstances, ostensibly in the vein of ABC’s hugely popular Lost series.  

The Afters is joined by a cop drama called Bosch, which finds its lead character, played by Titus Welliver, embroiled in an investigation of the murder of a 13 year-old boy, while simultaneous standing trial for allegedly murdering a suspected serial killer. Bosch is based on a popular series of crime novels from writer Michael Connelly, who is on board as co-writer for the series.

The dual dramas are supplemented by two pseudo comedies. Mozart in the Jungle is a drama/comedy that gives a behind-the-scenes look at a working symphony, starring Malcom McDowell, and penned by Alex Timbers and Wes Anderson alumns Jason Shwartzman and Roman Coppola. Transparent is a dark comedy about a dysfunctional family in L.A. Starring Jeffrey Tambor (best known as George Bluth from Arrested development) and Judith Light, fresh off of her lead role on Who’s the Boss (snicker), Transparent follows suit with its compatriots in the new lineup, adding some star power in the writing department in the form of Jill Solloway, best known for her work on HBO’s Six Feet Under.

The four new shows will help to bolster Amazon’s collection of original programs  as the company tries to keep up with the smashing success of original programming from its streaming rival, Netflix. Amazon’s current lineup includes comedies Beta, and Alpha House, which stars John Goodman.

News of the new batch of programming comes at convenient time for the online retail giant. Amazon today announced an anticipated price rise in its popular Prime program, which offers free two-day shipping on a variety of items from its site, from $79 to $99. The company has cited increased fuel costs as a reason for the price hike. It could be worse, however, as Amazon had originally announced pricing could go up by as much as $40 to $119 a year. Not surprisingly, testing the waters after that announcement showed the new pricing could take a big toll on Amazon’s Prime subscriber base.

Perhaps hoping to soften the blow of the increase, it would appear that Amazon has been attempting to sweeten the pot for its Prime members, bolstering programming for free add-ons to Prime like Amazon Instant, as well as reportedly working on a deal for a rumored free music streaming service to fold into the fray. 

While it’s hard to imagine anyone being pleased with the new Amazon Prime pricing, the cost of the service is still only a few dollars more than a basic Netflix membership. And let’s face it, those of us who have discovered the glories of free 2-day shipping for online shopping will likely never go back to the archaic alternative of actually leaving the house to pick-up our holiday wares. In a world in which clients and tenants are often handed their lot in a cavalier take-it-or-leave-it fashion, it’s nice to see an overlord that, at least on the surface, appears to care. We’ll have to wait and see if Amazon continues to add spoils to its service the next time prices make an upward trend, as well as how many Prime subscribers jump ship.

What do you think? Are these new shows enough to convince you to keep Amazon Prime, or simply icing on the indispensable Prime cake? Will you be canceling Prime service altogether? Let us know in the comments.

‘Bosch’ pilot image via Amazon Prime Instant Video

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