BY TODD SPANGLER
Amazon has locked up exclusive subscription VOD rights to cyber-drama “Mr. Robot,” a summer hit for USA Network with critics and audiences.
Under the multiregion licensing deal with NBCUniversal, the first season of the hacker thriller will be available to Prime members in the U.S., the U.K., Germany, Austria and Japan. “Mr. Robot” hits the U.K. on Oct. 16, followed by Germany and Austria on Nov. 20, while American users will have to wait until the spring of 2016. Amazon will let Prime members stream and download all 10 episodes of “Mr. Robot” season 1 for no additional charge.
For Amazon, the pact — likely one of its priciest acquisitions for a single series — is a coup in its fight with rivals Netflix and Hulu to secure exclusive programming. Amazon also has won exclusive SVOD rights to shows including all seasons of “Downton Abbey,” “Orphan Black” and “24,” and offers HBO original series that are at least three years off-air.
New York-set “Mr. Robot” stars Rami Malek (“The Pacific”) as the paranoid and asocial Elliot, an info-security engineer by day and vigilante hacker by night. He’s recruited by an underground hacker (Christian Slater) to take down the mega-conglomerate he is paid to protect.
The series from Universal Cable Prods. has been widely praised by critics, with a 98% score on Rotten Tomatoes. Variety‘s Brian Lowry wrote that season one was “a mind-bending head rush of a ride” and cited Malek’s “breakout performance.”
“‘Mr. Robot’ is one the most compelling new dramas on television,” said Brad Beale, Amazon VP of digital video content acquisition. “Rami Malek delivers a mesmerizing performance and leads a great cast with an intriguing story full of dark twists. Prime members are going to love binging on this awesome show.”
USA ordered a second season of “Mr. Robot” before the show even debuted on TV. It garnered strong ratings and finished as cable’s No. 2 drama for the summer, behind AMC’s “Fear the Walking Dead.”
NBCU — which wants to protect its USA distribution deals — was characteristically careful to position the latest Amazon deal as not upsetting the pay-TV apple cart. The Peacock has previously exclusive licensed shows to Amazon including “Hannibal,” “Grimm,” “Suits” and “Covert Affairs.”
The “Mr. Robot” pact will make the show “even more accessible to audiences,” according to Frances Manfredi, president of NBCUniversal Television and New Media Distribution. “We are pleased that Amazon recognizes the high quality of NBCUniversal’s content and is partnering with us in a network-friendly way that allows viewers to watch the show when and where they want it.”
Sam Esmail (“Comet”) is creator, writer and executive producer of “Mr. Robot.” Anonymous Content’s Steve Golin (“True Detective”) and Chad Hamilton (“Breakup at a Wedding”) also serve as exec producers. The show also stars Portia Doubleday (“Her”), Carly Chaikin (“Suburgatory”), Michel Gill (“House of Cards”) and Martin Wallström (“Simple Simon”).