Amazon’s video deal suggests a new model for investigative journalism

Amazon, hungry for content for its Prime Video service, has inked a new deal to develop original documentaries with Investigative Reporting Productions, a nonprofit documentary production company connected to the University of California, Berkeley.

The deal will give Amazon “first look” rights to IRP’s projects, while the university will retain intellectual property rights. “For the first time since the serious decline in journalism’s economic model, there is a commercial market for reliable nonfiction production,” John Temple, managing editor of the journalism school’s Investigative Reporting Program, told Nieman Lab earlier this month. “Why not take advantage of that?” 

Lowell Bergman, the legendary investigative reporter and the company’s chairman, said the deal was “huge.” “Anybody who’s familiar with my work knows that I’ve been looking to create a new model to support investigative journalism,” he wrote on the IRP website

The Berkeley deal, whose terms are confidential, is Amazon’s first big step toward news publishing. CEO Jeff Bezos is already deeply invested in journalism. In 2013 he bought The Washington Post for $250 million, and last week donated $1 million to the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, a group that provides legal support to journalists.

Meanwhile, Amazon’s spending on video doubled during the second half of 2016 compared to the same period in 2015. The company also nearly tripled the new TV shows and movies it offers to Amazon Prime members, and is estimated to spend $4.5 billion on video this year as it competes with other streaming services like Netflix, Hulu, and YouTube. [Monday Note via Geekwire]

[Photo: Flickr user Steve Jurvetson]