Amazon looks to add live TV for 112 million Prime Video subscribers
Amazon is pursuing new ways to weave live TV into its Prime Video streaming service.
The company’s decision is a significant reversal from just a few years ago.
At the time, Amazon execs reportedly scrapped plans to bundle U.S. broadcast and cable networks over concerns that there would not be enough of a profit margin.
Protocol first broke the news about Amazon’s latest plans on Tuesday. Amazon has not commented publicly about its new ambitions for offering live TV to its Prime members.
A publicly available job listing suggests why the company has changed its mind about entering the live TV business. “Although video on demand is on the rise, the global viewing hours weighs in favor of live or scheduled TV and OTT linear streaming is predicted to grow by 64% in next two years,” the job listing says.
Over-the-top linear streaming refers to live TV that is streamed online with streaming devices such as Amazon’s own Fire TV devices. It’s a business that has been growing at a rapid clip since 2015 as millions of people shifted to streaming from cable TV and satellite services.
Sling TV, YouTube TV, fuboTV and Hulu with Live TV are among the major players that bundle cable TV networks and local U.S. broadcast channels.
Hulu with Live TV has seen the most growth since entering the live TV business in May 2017. At the end of 2019, the live TV service hit 3.2 million subscribers, up 88 percent year over year, according to Fierce Cable.
Amazon seeks “worry-free” live TV
One challenge for the online live TV market — also known as virtual MVPD — is the cost associated with providing premium channels. Brokering network deals, particularly for live sports, has led to price increases for customers of every service. Virtual MVPD services generally offer between 30 to 100+ channels.
Customers wanting to wean themselves from huge cable TV packages are generally unaware that they can watch live sports and major events. A 2018 survey said that customers find current over-the-top options confusing.
Amazon’s job listings suggest that the company will experiment with how it will deliver live TV and “innovate on the next-gen worry-free Linear TV experience.”
Amazon’s current live TV options
Hiring a team to build-out a new live TV service doesn’t mean that Amazon will definitely offer it to customers.
The company has been experimenting with live TV over the years with live streaming NFL Thursday Night Football and English Premier League.
Assuming the company moves forward with its plans, Amazon would enter the live TV market with a customer base of 112 million Amazon Prime subscribers.
For the last year, Amazon has already been integrating a number of different live TV options into a single channel guide without much fanfare. Last June, the company announced that its channel guide would support Philo, a subscription service with 58 live TV channels, along with free live TV platforms such as Pluto TV and Red Bull TV.
The channel guide also lets subscribers to Prime Video Channels access live feeds from HBO, Showtime, MLB.TV, NBA League Pass, PGA Tour Live and others. Amazon’s Fire TV Recast, an over-the-air DVR, includes free over-the-air channels into the guide as well.
So Prime members invested in Fire TV’s hardware already have the flexibility of integrating a variety of live TV services into a single channel guide.