The top executive at Amazon Studios said “Lord of the Rings” fans lobbied the producers of the “Rings of Power” prequel series to avoid the graphic and explicit sexual content and violence that have become commonplace on rival HBO’s “Game of Thrones” franchise.
Jennifer Salke, the former NBC Entertainment president who was lured away by Jeff Bezos in 2017 to run the e-commerce giant’s television and film department, told Variety that enthusiasts of author J.R.R. Tolkien’s tales of Middle-earth demanded a family-friendly streaming experience.
“We knew from the beginning that this was not our ‘Game of Thrones’,” she said.
In 2017, Amazon Studios struck a deal with Tolkien’s estate, buying the rights to “Rings of Power” for a whopping $250 million. Three months later, Salke took the helm.
She said fans of Tolkien immediately made their feelings known about how they want the prequel series to look.
“In fact, the fans spoke up from the minute the deal was closed, saying, ‘Please don’t try to insert sex and a level of provocative violence,’ things that don’t feel true to the stories that Tolkien wanted to tell,” Salke told Variety.
“There’s so much darkness in the world,” she added.
“Leaning into light was the other thing that was really appealing to everybody — bringing something to our global customer base that is hopeful and has light and that a family can watch.”
Salke added: “So many people have grown up with this literature, and we wanted this series to pay it forward for new generations of Tolkien lovers.”
The stakes are high for Salke, whose division has invested hundreds of millions of dollars in producing “Rings of Power.” Some reports put the price tag as high as $1 billion.
Salke told Variety that in the month since the release of the first season, “we’re cresting toward 100 million customers having watched it so…it’s a big number.”
After the first two episodes premiered last month, an estimated 25 million viewers worldwide tuned in on the Amazon Prime Video service.
Some 1.8 million US households tuned in to the premiere of the first episode within the first three days of its rollout while another 1.3 million watched the second episode, making it the highest debut of any show on Amazon Prime, according to the analytics firm Samba TV.
But viewers gave the series a thumbs down and some critics said it failed to match the quality of “House of the Dragon,” HBO’s “Game of Thrones” prequel which debuted to much fanfare this summer.
Despite the reputation for its explicit content, it took seven episodes for Rhaenyra Targaryen, played by Emma D’Arcy, to have sex with her uncle, Daemon Targaryen, who is portrayed by Matt Smith, on “House of the Dragon” on Sunday.