The head of Amazon Studios confirms that the plan to announce the rescue of “The Expanse” was cooked up while Amazon’s billionaire founder, Jeff Bezos, was sitting at a dinner table just a few feet away from the cast of the fan-favorite science-fiction TV show.
I was right beside Bezos when he made the announcement on May 25, during an awards banquet at the National Space Society’s International Space Development Conference. I had tipped off his team while dinner was being served that I planned to ask about the fate of “The Expanse,” but once we got up on stage, Bezos artfully beat me to the punch.
“Ten minutes ago, I just got word that ‘The Expanse’ is saved,” he said, setting off cheers in the banquet hall.
The decision meant that the outer-space opera, which had been canceled by the Syfy channel only days before, would go on to a fourth season as an Amazon Prime Original.
Fans had been pleading with Amazon to pick up the show, and in an interview published today on Deadline Hollywood, Amazon Studios chief Jennifer Salke confirmed that a deal was “pretty much done” by the time Bezos sat down to dinner.
But she also confirmed that she pulled the trigger only after getting Bezos’ dinnertime email. Here’s how she described the situation to Deadline:
“There were airplanes circling us, I was having cakes delivered, there was a whole thing happening. And then really smart people, whose opinions I really value creatively, started reaching out to me, saying, ‘Have you seen this show, “The Expanse,” it’s actually great.’ I hadn’t, so I spent some time, I watched the show, and I was like, this show is actually really well done, why is nobody watching it? At the same time, Jeff Bezos was getting emails from everyone from George R.R. Martin to every captain of industry, like the founder of Craigslist, and they were all writing, saying, there’s this show, it’s so great, you have to see it, you have to buy it or save it.
“We were trying to explore the deal, and we could make the U.S. deal pretty easily because they were kind of just standing outside, holding it out to us. We had it pretty much done when [Bezos] emailed saying, ‘I’m at an event, a space seminar, I’m looking at the cast of ‘The Expanse’ here, I would like to get up there and order the show. Can I, can I?’ I was like, let me check with business affairs, and then replied, you can do it, go for it. It was so fun to watch it on Twitter Live; I could see him do it in real time.
“So, yes, he’s a big fan, and it was fun to be able to support that, not just for him but for all the people that really love that show.”
Bezos’ announcement from the stage put everyone in a good mood — including me. At a later point in our fireside chat, I joked that the cast of “The Expanse” might want to take a ride on the New Shepard suborbital spaceship that Bezos’ Blue Origin space venture is currently testing.
Jennifer Salke was clearly on Bezos’ mind, judging by his jocular reply:
“We talked about whether we should just film on location. That might drive the budget up a bit. The woman who runs Amazon Studios, I’m already thinking she’s not going to think that’s a good idea. She’s way too smart for that.”
For more about how Amazon Studios makes deals, including an update on “The Lord of the Rings,” check out Deadline’s extended QA with Jennifer Salke. And if you haven’t read the full transcript of Jeff Bezos’ fireside chat, it’s not too late to give it a read or listen to the GeekWire Radio podcast.