Will this method be any more successful than the way the networks develop new shows?
Of the many dysfunctional, outdated aspects of the network TV business, the pilot process may be the most broken. Every year, dozens of very expensive pilots are produced in a short, identical window, with everyone fighting over the same tiny pool of actors, decisions being made in a rush based on limited data, often just on the gut instincts of a handful of people. Only a small handful will ever air, and only an even smaller handful of those will make it to a second season. It's an inefficient process in virtually every way.
Why do the network do it this way? Because, like so many other aspects of the business, this is how it's always been done, and it's hard to steer around this particular iceberg. The networks pay lip service to the idea of doing year-round development, for instance, to avoid the casting crunch, but it happens only in isolated cases.
One potential fix in the age of Hulu, iTunes, etc., would be to make all of the pilots available online for viewers to sample and offer feedback on. It's not an ideal solution — it would be a self-selecting sample that, by its very nature, would probably be more likely to watch shows online (where the networks don't make remotely as much money) than on TV — but it would still provide far more feedback than the networks get now, and possibly more useful feedback than the traditional network testing that inevitably give high marks to terrible shows featuring recognizable stars. But the networks can't or won't do that, because there are too many entities involved with too many egos to potentially bruise. Some pilots are so terrible they should never see the light of day, and no executive wants to be second-guessed if one of their pet shows gets lower marks than one they passed on.
Because Amazon hasn't spent decades making shows, it's not bound by tradition or unwritten rules. For some reason, Amazon chose to produce eight comedy pilots (six live-action, two animated, plus another six children's shows I won't be talking about here) at roughly the same time as the networks, and therefore had to draw on the same diluted talent pool. But once they were made, Amazon decided to open up the process to their potential audience, and crowd-source reaction to these pilots. You can watch all of them at AmazonOriginals.com, and then rate them and/or take a more detailed survey about what you liked and didn't like about each, which include: