Bezos’ $715m gamble on The Lord of the Rings

Why this bet is personal.

As a teen, a summer after working as a McDonald’s fry cook, Jeff Bezos organized an educational camp.

Bezos’ $715m gamble on The Lord of the Rings

Part of the program required reading, and Bezos’ list included The Lord of the Rings.

Years later, in 1994, Bezos founded Amazon. In 1999, the LOTR series was named Amazon customers’ favorite book of the millennium.

Fast forward to 2017, when Amazon announced it had won the novel’s TV rights.


… some $715m and five years later, “The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power” drops on Prime Video.

  • The price tag represents the cost for the rights ($250m) and eight-episode production ($465m) of the most expensive TV season ever.
  • As one tweet put it, “Rings of Power is the first television show where if it sucks, the price of your detergent will probably go up.”

The reality is, the cost equates to income generated from ~5.1m Prime subscriptions, or just ~0.15% of Amazon’s $469.8B 2021 revenue.

In an unconventional move…

… it’s reported that Bezos personally worked on the pitch for the rights.

  • That pitch — $250m, a multiseason commitment, and book promotions on Amazon — outweighed the cash and Roku goodie bags that Netflix offered Tolkien’s heirs and studio execs while shopping the deal.

At Tuesday’s premiere, Bezos emphasized the responsibility and privilege that comes with working on Tolkien’s world.

He also recalled the stern warning his son had given him after the deal landed:

“Dad, please don’t eff this up.”

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