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How Amazon's Epic Rings Of Power Pitch Vanquished The Competition For Tolkien's Rights

Although it may seem like ancient history now that Season 1 of "The Lord of The Rings: The Rings of Power" is currently streaming on Amazon Prime Video, there was a time not so long ago when it was unclear which major streaming service would purchase the rights to the highly-anticipated series. Back in 2017, the Tolkein estate began shopping the rights to a "Lord of the Rings" television series to several different media outlets, including the streaming giant Netflix and the premium network HBO — the latter of which had already produced an epic fantasy series in "Game of Thrones."

A bidding war ensued, which ended when the rights to the (then-unnamed) "Lord of the Rings" television series were sold to Amazon for a staggering $250 million — a massive price tag that was quickly overshadowed by the reported $1 billion production budget of the series itself (via The Hollywood Reporter). Although it was unclear at the time exactly what made Amazon's pitch stand out in the eyes of the Tolkein estate (enough to cast aside the offers of HBO and Netflix), a recent report indicates how the estate was won over by Amazon and its commitment to collaboration.

Amazon did not pitch a specific series

Several unnamed sources credited in a recent article by The Hollywood Reporter have claimed that the Tolkein estate was unhappy with the pitches from Netflix and HBO, both of which were dramatically different from the final product of "The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power." According to these alleged sources, HBO wanted to create a series based around Tolkein's Third Age: in essence re-adapting the same exact storyline which was at the center of Peter Jackson's trilogy.

Although the Tolkein estate has been infamously critical of Jackson's adaptations, a desire to explore new storylines took them to Netflix, who pitched the idea of creating several shows focusing on well-known characters from "The Lord of the Rings." One source told THR: "They took the Marvel approach, and that completely freaked out the estate." Amazon opted for a different approach, offering the estate the opportunity for a collaborative relationship that would give them the opportunity to uphold Tolkein's work to the highest standard. "It was our collective passion and fidelity to Tolkein that really won the day," said Vernon Sanders, co-head of Amazon Studios TV.

Furthermore, showrunners Patrick McKay and J.D. Payne claim that their pitch regarding Tolkein's Second Age was the key to their success. Unlike the HBO and Netflix pitches, their proposal for a series exploring the history of Middle-earth's Second Age was chock full of new stories that had never been adapted before — and this unique pitch ultimately became the vision for Amazon's "The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power."