There's a new kid on the block at Culver Studios.

Inside a towering soundstage, just around the corner from where such television comedies as TBS' Cougar Town and Showtime's Episodes have been filmed, another production is in full swing.

A set depicting a high-tech, two-storey office is hosting a boozy party scene for Betas, a comedy about a quirky crew of app creators in Silicon Valley.

But unlike its neighbouring productions, the new series will likely never air on televisions. Instead, it will stream on them, in addition to many other devices. Betas is one of the first original series from Amazon, the online retail giant that's taking a cue from Netflix and Hulu by producing its own shows that will only be available on Amazon Instant Video, a content service for paying members.


"In the old days, I remember if you were a film actor, you didn't do TV," said Ed Begley Jr, who stars in Betas as a goofy, patriarchal investor. "That wall came down many years ago. Now, I think the same thing is happening on the web. This isn't just someone with a Handycam filming something that looks like public access TV. This is a real show."

Amazon's move into content creation is another click in the evolution of online video, legitimised earlier this year by the success of House of Cards, the political drama from online streaming service Netflix starring Kevin Spacey. That show was nominated for a best drama Emmy, alongside the likes of AMC's Breaking Bad, which ultimately nabbed the prize.

Over the past year, has bolstered its streaming video library beyond typical movies and TV shows by locking down the exclusive streaming rights to such buzzed-about series as Downton Abbey, Falling Skies, Justified and Under the Dome.

The Seattle-based company is hoping to now build hype and attract subscribers with its own shows.

Amazon's foray into original programming kicks off with Saturday's debut of the political comedy Alpha House, featuring Mark Consuelos, Clark Johnson, Matt Malloy and John Goodman as senators who live together.

Goodman, an acting vet with a seemingly ubiquitous presence on the big and small screen these days, didn't notice much of a contrast between Alpha House and the other TV productions he's worked on.

"The only difference was that we could curse very heavily, but that's the only difference," said Goodman. " It was so much like a regular television show. I just don't care."

Amazon reportedly spent US$50 million ($60 million) to produce Betas and Alpha House, along with three children's shows, for Amazon Prime, a premium service that provides free two-day shipping, streaming video and other perks to members who pay US$79 a year.

The company ordered full seasons after offering up 14 pilots for Amazon customers to stream and critique.

Amazon isn't waiting around to see if comedies Betas and Alpha House go viral, though. It is now in search of its very own buzz-worthy dramas in the mould of House of Cards and Orange is the New Black.

Price said pilots have been ordered for two such properties, an adaptation of Michael Connelly's Harry Bosch police procedural book series and a mysterious genre show from The X-Files creator Chris Carter, as well as three additional comedies and six new kids' shows.

- AP