There are many benefits associated with Amazon Prime, faster shipping being the popular reason why someone would subscribe to the service. However, as non-traditional viewing habits continue to increase, the best reason may actually be Prime Video.
Amazon’s service is similar to that of Netflix, offering a large library of ready to stream movies and TV, but Amazon differentiates itself in that it also allows customers to rent or buy movies that are not already included in the service. Although many people enjoy that Netflix is the same cost every month and that it is constantly updated with fresh content, Amazon prime is as well. But when a new movie comes out, or something disappears from Netflix, you can most likely still rent it for a few dollars on Amazon.
As streaming services like Prime Video have become more popular and similar, they have been forced to find ways to differentiate themselves. For Netflix and Amazon in particular, this has meant original content.
Netflix has a strong track record with its original content. Succeeding with shows like House of Cards, Orange is the New Black, and Narcos, to name a few. Netflix has not shown signs of slowing down either, spending around $5 billion in 2016, and a planned $6 billion in 2017. This focus on original content has driven many to purchase Netflix subscriptions, a Cowen report found that 58% of Netflix’s subscribers pay the monthly fee specifically for the original content.
It is no mistake that Amazon, who followed Netflix with streaming video, is following in the footsteps and creating original content as well.
One of the biggest shows that Amazon produced was The Grand Tour. For those of you who loved Top Gear as much as I did, this alone made Prime Video worth it. The show garnered millions of viewers around the world. The shows popularity has even made Netflix consider a car show of its own to try to compete with The Grand Tour.
In a large part due to Amazons original content, its prime video viewership more than doubled in 2016. This is in a large part due to prime video being available in over 200 countries and territories around the world. Amazon is particularly excited about the launch of prime video in India where they are planning to produce original content with some of the countries largest stars, both directors and actors.
What makes Amazon really stand out though, is that it did something that no other streaming service has done, not even Netflix, it received an Academy Award nomination for best picture. Amazon took an admittedly different route than Netflix, who prefers releasing its original content on the website rather than in theaters first, by giving Manchester by the Sea a traditional theaters first. Now that it has two academy awards under its belt, one for best actor and one for best original screenplay, the movie will make its way to Prime Video on May 5th. It is this strategy that may have helped Amazon and hurt Netflix. Many large theater chains refuse to show Netflix originals if they are also going to be available to stream on the same day. This has cause Netflix to make a deal with a small theater company with locations in New York and Los Angeles. The purpose of the deal is to make the content eligible to qualify for the Academy Awards. To be eligible a film has to be in theaters in Los Angeles for a week.
Although Amazon is the only streaming service to receive a nomination for best picture, it is not the only service to win an Oscar. Netflix has found its stride in the documentary categories at the Oscars. It has been nominated in each of the years since 2014 for best documentary, including this years nomination for 13th. However, even without winning a best documentary Oscar, Netflix did take home the award for best documentary short for The White Helmets. These categories have been more favorable to Netflix because they do not rely on the same theatrical releases that the other films require. This has allowed Netflix to stick to its strategy of releasing the content for streaming the same day as it would otherwise be in theaters.
Amazon also took home another Oscar this year for the best foreign language film, The Salesman.
It will be interesting to see as we approach awards season in future years if Amazon and Netflix continue to make strides into the film community. Both streaming services have benefitted from the publicity and popularity of their original content, and it will be interesting to see how that continues to grow and change over time. I am interested to see if Amazon will change its release strategy to be more like Netflix, or if it will continue with its current strategy because they have been successful with it.