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Amazon Wants to Fund a New Generation of Playwrights

It's no secret that Amazon is always looking to add to its portfolio of original content.

Now, the tech giant is looking for a few good playwrights to write fiction for Audible, it digital audiobooks service. On Tuesday, Amazon announced a new $5 million fund for providing grants to emerging writers who create one- or two-person plays that can be made in audio-only format on Audible, which typically offers audiobooks and podcasts.

Announcing the news in The New York Times, Audible CEO Donald Katz said the fund would initially support roughly a dozen playwrights, all of whom will apply for grants that will cover the cost of production as well as "industry standards" for new commissions. After playwrights submit their work to Amazon, the company will rely on recommendations of an advisory board consisting theater industry bigwigs that includes actress Annette Bening, as well as award-winning playwrights such as Tom Stoppard and Lynn Nottage.

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Amazon is expected to spend roughly $4.5 billion on original content in 2017, according to one estimate, though much of that money will go toward original movies and TV shows as the e-commerce giant continues to ramp up its digital video portfolio in an attempt to compete with Netflix. However, Amazon has also been ramping up its audio offerings.

Last summer, Amazon introduced Channels, its subscription service offering ad-free podcasts and other on-demand audio content from Audible, while Amazon Prime members get access to unlimited podcasts and audio from Audible. And, the new original stories would join other exclusive audio content produced by Amazon's Audible, including podcasts such as Ponzi Supernova, which focuses on the financial crimes of Bernie Madoff, as well as original comedy series featuring well-known comedians like Will Arnett and Nick Offerman.

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