‘Citadel’ Just ‘Needs Time to Grow’ Domestically With ‘Very Jaded’ U.S. Audiences, Says Amazon Studios’ Head of Drama Series

Amazon Studios’ head of drama series Odetta Watkins says big-budget drama “Citadel,” which has yet to crack Nielsen’s weekly streaming rankings, still “needs time to grow” with “very jaded” U.S. audiences.

The exec was speaking at the Banff World Media Festival in Alberta, Canada, on Sunday, where the global-facing “Citadel” was discussed during an international media leaders panel, moderated by The Ankler’s Elaine Low.

In response to a question from Variety about “Citadel’s” sluggish domestic performance but strong showing overseas — and whether that matters to Prime Video — Watkins said: “I can tell you from a creative perspective, for me, it’s a victory, because the show was conceived to be able to speak to the world.”

Watkins allowed that “every show is not going to hit in every place on the same level, but as the franchise grows, I feel like the numbers will grow all over, including domestically.”

She continued: “I think there are so many chapters to this. I think you’ll start to see the audience start to respond differently as it goes on. In the U.S., we are very jaded and watch everything with a discerning eye, like, ‘Hmm, that [season] wasn’t as good as the last one.’ I just think [‘Citadel’] needs time to grow.”

Despite its ambitious premise, “Citadel” has so far received mixed reviews from critics, who’ve remained wary of its formulaic approach to creating an international franchise à la “Squid Game” or “Money Heist.” The $185 million spy series, starring Priyanka Chopra Jonas and Richard Madden, was missing for the third week in a row from Nielsen’s weekly streaming rankings last week.

It was expected that “Citadel” would take time to make a significant showing on the Nielsen Top 10, in part due to Amazon’s prioritization of international marketing — spinoffs of the series are already set for India and Italy (and Watkins mentioned a Mexican spin-off in production as well). Because Nielsen measures in the U.S. alone, viewers in other countries are not accounted for. Still, the fact that the series was unable to chart after two and a half weeks of streaming demonstrates that the show has failed to resonate with American audiences the way that franchise projects of a similar price point would typically target to do.

Watkins, a former Warner Bros. Television executive who was hired by Amazon Studios in 2021, spoke extensively on the panel about the streamer’s international outlook, and making shows “a global audience can enjoy without having to give up something,” such as cultural differences or language barriers.

“I think authenticity is a big deal when you’re looking at a show — that it’s true to that audience and they’re seeing something that feels real as opposed to what you think an audience may want,” said Watkins.

“Citadel” follows an international spy agency whose operatives, including Madden’s Mason Kane and Chopra Jonas’ Nadia Sinh, must come out of hiding to take down a powerful crime syndicate called Manticore. The series, which is the brainchild of Amazon and MGM Studios boss Jennifer Salke, was envisioned as an interconnected global franchise, with off-shoot series made in Italy and India, starring Matilda De Angelis, Varun Dhawan and Samantha Ruth Prabhu. The latter global series are now in production.

Prime Video recently confirmed Season 2, with Joe Russo set to direct the entire season.

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