Amazon enhanced its Prime service this week by launching Amazon Channels, the tech giant’s live-TV streaming service, in the U.K. and Germany. The Prime providers will add more than 40 TV channels to its UK streaming service, including ITV and live sport for the first time, upping the stakes in rival Netflix and pay-TV operators such as Sky.
Amazon will offer the channels at an extra cost to Amazon Prime members, who pay £79 a year or £7.99 a month for on-demand video including exclusive shows such as Fortitude, The Grand Tour and Man in the High Castle.
The service lets Prime members, who already pay £79 a year for a subscription that includes access to on-demand shows and movies, subscribe to up to 40 different live TV channels. These each range from £1.49 to £9.49 a month depending on the channel. The most recognizable out of the slate are Discovery, Eurosport Player and ITV Hub+, which appear alongside more niche channels like Pongalo Next (Latin American movies and series) and Horse & Country Play (“the home of equestrianism”).
Subscribers can now choose and pay for individual services, rather than for a bundle as with the traditional pay-TV model used by Sky. Netflix’s standard video on-demand service costs £7.49 a month while Sky’s cheapest package of channels is £22.
“We don’t focus on our competitors,” said Alex Green, the managing director of Amazon’s TV channel rollout across Europe. “We focus on how we can improve our service for customers.”
At launch, Amazon is offering channels including Gold Rush broadcaster Discovery and its Eurosport subsidiary, which will lead to Amazon offering live sport for the first time globally, starting with the imminent French Open and Olympic coverage from next year.
Other channels include NBC Universal’s reality TV service Hayu, which has shows such as Keeping Up With the Kardashians, Made in Chelsea and The Real Housewives franchise, and Amazon’s own Bollywood channel Heera.
There will also be films from providers including the BFI and studio MGM, which has movies such as The Hobbit.
“This move represents a massive broadening of content,” said Richard Broughton, an analyst at Ampere. “It makes Amazon increasingly competitive with both Netflix and Sky, although at an increasingly higher price point.”
“The main challenge Amazon has is that it is offering all of the channels standalone, which is potentially extremely expensive,” said Broughton. “The a la carte model has been tried a few times in the pay-TV market before. Research suggests that people say they want to pick and choose but in practice, they prefer buying a big bundle and get ‘all-they-can-eat’ TV. In time, Amazon may look at aggregating some of the channels it is offering a pay-TV style package.”
Green said that so far the launch of Amazon channels in the US, which has grown to 107 partners since late 2015, had “exceeded expectations” in terms of subscriber numbers. It will be interesting to see if the same will happen in the UK.