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Amazon’s quest to best HBO by creating a show even bigger than Game of Thrones just took an intriguing new turn. The platform got a head start on its journey last year when it partnered with J.R.R. Tolkien’s estate to create a Lord of the Rings TV series—a pricey bet that could cost up to $500 million. (The rights alone reportedly went for a cool $250.)
Now, the company is reportedly adding another potentially massive asset to its lineup: according to the Financial Times, Amazon is in talks to adapt the popular Chinese book series The Three-Body Problem into a three-season show. How much will that cost? A smooth $1 billion. That may be a drop in the bucket compared to Jeff Bezos’s net worth, but it’s also a hefty enough sum to make this potential adaptation one of the most expensive shows of all time—and that’s before production even begins.
The Three-Body Problem is a 2008 sci-fi novel by Liu Cixin. It’s set in China and, in brief, is about aliens readying to invade Earth. The novel was both a best-seller and a huge critical success, earning Cixin a Hugo Award, among other literary prizes. It also got some high-profile praise last year from none other than President Barack Obama, who called it “just wildly imaginative, really interesting,” and a work that helped him escape the “petty” day-to-day problems he faced in Congress.
The rights to the work are currently held by Lin Qi, the chairman of online-gaming giant Youzu Interactive. Per FT, some insiders hazard that Amazon’s adaptation could be an even bigger success than Thrones, which is why that price tag is so enormous. Of course, let’s also take a step back here and consider that for the last seven years, no show has managed to outshine Thrones—though plenty has tried, and plenty more have been content to imitate it in hopes of some reflected glory. (Remember The Bastard Executioner?) It’s the biggest series on television, a rating giant that practically absorbs the zeitgeist with each new season, and continues to set viewing records in an era when people prefer to watch TV on their own time. HBO is still sitting pretty on the Iron Throne.
Amazon is, however, making wise steps to imitate and, perhaps, even overthrow the prestige network’s series—an attempt that will be greatly aided by the fact that Thrones is coming up on its last season, set to debut in 2019. After that, viewers will likely be searching for a new fantastical project—and, if the timing is right, Jeff Bezos will be there to scoop them up into his surprisingly sturdy arms.