April 22, 2013, 12:15 PM

Amazon says its original TV shows are drawing rave reviews

80% of consumers who viewed the pilots released Friday give them at least four stars.

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No. 1 e-retailer Amazon.com Inc. says 80% of its most-streamed Instant Videos this weekend were among the 14 original TV pilots that it produced and released on Friday on Amazon.com. Viewers have left thousands of reviews about the shows, 80% of which included four- or five-out-of-five star ratings, it says. Five stars is the top rating.

Customer feedback will ultimately determine which shows Amazon develops into full series, the retailer says. Its content production house, Amazon Studios, launched in 2010 and has been developing original TV shows and movies based on scripts that anyone can submit to its web site since then, it says.

“For the past year the Amazon Studios team has collaborated with some of the best actors and writers in Hollywood to produce top-quality shows. Now we’ve handed the remote to our customers to hear what they think,” says Roy Price, director of Amazon Studios. “In just a few days the pilots have received thousands of helpful and sometimes hilarious reviews. Keep the feedback coming—and help us decide which pilots will be turned into full series.”

The pilots include six children’s and eight adult comedy TV episodes. For now, anyone can watch them on Amazon.com for free; normally consumers pay $2.99 to rent a standard TV episode or movie and view it through Amazon Instant Video. Amazon did not say how long the free promotion will last. Members of Amazon Prime, which costs $79 per year to join, can watch any Instant Video for free, another perk in a program that also includes free two-day shipping on all items and the ability to borrow books from the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library, the retailer says.

Other streaming video providers, in particular Netflix Inc. and Hulu, have also been developing original TV content. Yet it remains to be seen whether those shows will prove compelling enough to attract new customers. Netflix, which in February debuted the well-reviewed original political thriller starring Kevin Spacey, “House of Cards,” and in the last week released an original horror show, “Hemlock Grove,” is scheduled to release its first quarter earnings later today.

Amazon has not said whether the release of original content or free access to Instant Video has helped to grow its streaming content or Prime customer bases. The retailer did not immediately respond to a request for comment. 

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