Pity poor Amazon which today is doing its best to convince us it’s reinvented the future of TV by allowing Prime Video users to subscribe to a selection of mostly third rate video apps though their Amazon account.
Amazon boats its ‘Amazon Channels’ are “available independently of any ‘bundle’” for the first time ever, allowing customers to pay only for what they want to watch. But in truth it’s offering very little that audiences will actually want to pay out for.
Of the 40 so-called channels on offer, the only real big names are Discovery, Eurosport Player, the subscription version of ITV Hub+, the BFI Player and, if we’re being really generous, AMC’s Shudder.
But of these only Discovery isn’t already available on contract free terms via their own apps and unless you’re already a Prime member why would you pay £80 per year just to be able to sign up to services that are already available on iOS, Android and many Smart TVs?
How much demand will there be for the £9.99 per month Daily Burn – described as “on demand and live workouts including dance, strength training, yoga, cardio and more” – and who will fancy shelling out almost £7pm for the Yoga Anytime Channel?
Amazon Channels started off in the US, where top name shows were traditionally only available for eye-wateringly high subscriptions from the big pay-TV providers, and in its home market includes content from premium names such as Showtime and HBO.
But the UK market is very different.
Firstly any subscription service is competing against the fact that 90%+ of the most watched shows are available free to air – and secondly there’s enormous competition between the pay-TV providers with three of the five providers – TalkTalk, BT and Plusnet – actively targeting lower spending homes.
On top of this, the premium US cable content is locked up by both Sky (Showtime and HBO) and BT (AMC) who make it available on far less onerous terms than is the case in the US, especially Sky which has enjoyed huge success with its NOW TV streaming service which offers shows such as WestWorld and Game of Thrones for just £6.99 per month.
It’s hard to see Sky agreeing to provide its channels to Amazon and BT has so far shown little interest in offering its sports and AMC channels outside of its own broadband bundles.
I hate to be the bringer of bad news but what ever hopes Amazon has for its Channels service in the UK they’re going to be dashed.
And I that suspect deep down the firm already knows this given its European TV boss used to head up BT TV and knows first hand that unless, as BT eventually did, you invest in premium content and find a way of offering it for wallet-friendly prices you just can’t scale up a TV offering in the UK.
Ultimately if Amazon wants to increase the attractiveness of its Prime Video service over here it’s going to have to put its app on BT, Sky and Virgin Media’s set top boxes where customers already watch their favourite channels rather than trying to bring its US ‘cord-cutting’ approach to a market where it has no resonance.