According to this article at The Verge, Amazon is reportedly considering adding a live TV service to its Prime Video product. I think it’s a great idea, except for the fact that Amazon is almost hilariously late to the party. In fact if you think about it, they are about 75 years late.
Live TV is essential
Oh yeah, I hate that word too. It’s been bandied about a lot over the last three months, especially to describe things that, in fact, are not essential. But I’ve spent years on this blog telling you that live TV is an absolute must. Not because it’s a constant companion to people, not because it is a gateway to reality programming. Live TV is a gateway to the best quality local and national news. There’s no doubt that we need top-notch journalism more than ever right now.
Live TV is a great complement to streaming
Streaming TV is referred to in the industry as “SVOD” — subscription video on demand. You know what they mean if you think about it. You pay one price and you can get as much video as you want. It’s the opposite of “PPV” — pay-per-view, where you pay for every program separately. Most people use a mix of these technologies.
But if recent events have taught us anything, it’s that there is, surprisingly, an end to the internet. Think about it. How often have you found yourself endlessly scrolling through Netflix and finding nothing to watch? It’s even worse, by the way, with Prime Video. Prime Video suffers from a really poor curation algorithm that places the same show in multiple areas and very quickly makes you feel like there’s nothing left to watch.
That’s where live TV comes in. By presenting a curated stream of live entertainment constantly, you’re more likely to see something you can settle into watching. Amazon must know this, and this must be why they are looking at live video.
The problem with Amazon’s strategy
Live TV has been around since the 1940s. Live streaming TV has been around for five years. There are several established players. If you want a full-featured experience, choose YouTube, or Hulu, or even better choose Sling or AT&T TV which are both better options. For a zero-cost experience where you can get a lot of content but have a lot of commercials, there’s Pluto. My point is that there is a lot of live TV already out there on the internet.
Not only that there’s antenna TV. I’m a big fan of antenna TV. Since you’re really watching live, it doesn’t matter that you don’t really have DVR functions. Put up an antenna and you’ll get dozens of channels with nothing more to pay ever.
So it’s really hard for me to see where Amazon is coming from, because it really seems like all the bases are covered.
There is a way that Amazon could disrupt things but it’s not likely to happen. Amazon is a company that could literally afford to give free TV away. At the time I’m writing this, their market capitalization is $1,370,000,000. One point three seven trillion dollars. They could afford to make deals with every content provider and give live streaming TV away.
Except of course they won’t, because that would be anticompetitive and monopolistic and hurt them in the long run. But short of that I don’t see how they could really make it in this already-crowded market.
In the meantime, if you really want live TV that you’ll never pay any more for, get an antenna from Solid Signal and once it’s installed, you’ll be getting free live TV every day without waiting for Amazon.