Amazon Said to Drop Viacom Shows as Reality Fatigue Hits

Updated on Inc.’s subscription-video service will drop several Viacom Inc. shows, including “Teen Mom” and “Mob Wives,” people with knowledge of the matter said, evidence that viewer fatigue with reality shows is spreading online.

Amazon Prime Instant Video will spend more on original programming and buy shows from other suppliers, said the people, who asked not to be identified discussing the matter. Viacom’s more popular shows, such as “Dora the Explorer,” will stay on the $99-a-year service, they said.

Viacom isn’t the only programmer grappling with shrinking audiences for reality TV. Amazon this year also declined to renew a deal with A+E Networks, which supplied “Pawn Stars” and “Storage Wars,” the people said. Some of the Viacom shows are still in production. The shrinking value of reality shows may have contributed to the $785 million charge Viacom took last quarter, said David Bank, an analyst with RBC Capital Markets.

“Unscripted docudrama is becoming increasingly marginalized,” Bank said in an interview. The demand for programming from companies such as A+E and Scripps Networks Interactive Inc. has diminished and “monetization” is getting tougher, he said.

Viacom Chief Executive Officer Philippe Dauman addressed Amazon’s action at an investor conference Thursday in New York.

“They are generally not current shows,” Dauman said. “They move around, we have shows rotating in and rotating out.” Many older Nickelodeon shows will move to Noggin, Viacom’s new subscription streaming service for kids’ programming.

For Sale

In other situations where Amazon has dropped shows from its subscription streaming service, episodes have remained available for purchase.

Amazon acquired rights to the shows in June 2013, shortly after Netflix Inc. allowed its own deal with New York-based Viacom to expire. The multiyear accord, valued at $200 million by Bloomberg Intelligence, helped Amazon strengthen its kids’ lineup with exclusive shows such as “SpongeBob SquarePants.” That program still ranks among the 10 most-watched series from the deal, the people said.

The Viacom package also included several reality shows, from networks like MTV and VH1, that Amazon no longer wants.

The prime-time audiences at networks that rely more on reality shows, such as A&E and History, co-owned by Walt Disney Co. and Hearst Corp., have declined 20 percent to 30 percent this year, according to Nielsen data.

Scripted Shows

Channels that have specialized in reality programming, such as Comcast Corp.’s E!, are producing more scripted shows, in part because of their longer-term value.

“The kind of disposable nature of reality, basically doesn’t have much of a long shelf life,” Ted Sarandos, chief content officer at Netflix said at an investor conference Wednesday. “It hasn’t been a great category for us.”

Seattle-based Amazon and Netflix are more interested shows that encourage viewers to watch several episodes at once, so-called binge-viewing.

Later this year, Amazon will release the second season of “Transparent,” the critically acclaimed show about a transgender parent, and new shows such as “The Man in the High Castle,” an adaptation of a Philip K. Dick novel produced by “Gladiator” director Ridley Scott.

Amazon also wants programming unique to its video service that will entice more people to subscribe and stick around. The company dropped high-quality shows from BBC America, such as “Doctor Who,” because it didn’t have the exclusive rights, the people said.