Go ahead Prime Video, launch an ad-supported tier

A glut of what are often milquetoast, forgettable shows, plus inexorable price hikes, and now a rapidly multiplying presence of ads on most all of the major streamers — honestly, it’s enough to push a guy back into the safe and old-school arms of video on demand. That’s at least where I’m at right now, as the streaming landscape continues to change into something almost unrecognizable compared to its former self, thanks in part to developments like Amazon’s Prime Video joining the ranks of streamers launching ad-supported subscription tiers. And I don’t see my situation changing anytime soon.

I’m actually spending most of my free time these days watching movies, largely via VOD, rather than streaming TV shows from platforms like Netflix or Prime Video. And it’s mainly for two reasons: One, because of the investment of two hours or so that’s required for a movie, compared to maybe 20 hours or more for a TV show that you might not realize you dislike until halfway through. The second reason is that after you’ve either bought or rented the movie, you’re buying from a source like iTunes — no ads, baby!

Morfydd Clark as Galadriel in the Prime Video series “The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power.” Image source: Ben Rothstein/Prime Video

I thought about all this again in the context of news from The Wall Street Journal that Prime Video is planning to launch an ad tier for the service — which is no surprise, really, considering that data from Insider Intelligence shows that Amazon (which made $9.5 billion in ad revenue in the first quarter), is one of the biggest digital ad revenue-generators in the game after Google and Meta.

This very much feels like a cart-before-the-horse kind of move, though, and you don’t have to take my word for it. It feels, in other words, like the appropriate way to spin the flywheel is to just … make better content before, you know, holding out your palm and demanding more money.

In fact, raise your hand if you’ve checked out Citadel, Prime Video’s splashy, big-budget spy series that hasn’t yet managed to crack the Nielsen Stream Top 10 (notwithstanding all the money spent on it and the big-name stars that dominate the cast). Or how about the streamer’s Lord of the Rings prequel series, The Rings of Power — which one analyst who covers Amazon apparently found so boring that he kept falling asleep while trying to watch it.

There’s great stuff to be found on Prime Video, sure. The latest streaming TV series that I got hardcore into is an imported Prime Video gem called Jinny’s Kitchen. It’s just that somewhere along the line, it feels like something got out of whack in the grand equation at the heart of the Streaming Wars.

Services like Prime Video (which is far from the only one doing this) keep loading up their library with a staggering pile of shows and movies, and good luck finding a winner amid all the titles that you don’t care for. Then, of course, the price has to go up to fund all of the spending on that ever-growing pile of content. Some gems get buried, leading to poor viewership and ultimately cancellation — and while you’re starting a Change.org petition to bring back your favorite show, the streamer is launching an ad tier to try to hoover up more price-conscious consumers.

In the meantime, I’ll be over here watching my downloaded copy of John Wick 4 and appreciating the fact that there are no ads in sight.

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