Amazon will soon distribute ad-supported streaming channels

Amazon’s Channels program has been a big hit for TV networks and digital publishers with subscription video streaming products. Soon, Amazon wants to open up advertising as another form of revenue for media partners that have ad-supported streaming apps.

Speaking at Digiday’s Future of TV Hot Topic last week, Rich Au, head of Amazon Channels in the U.S., said Amazon will start offering ad-supported streaming channels later this year. While he did not provide a specific timetable, Au pointed to how Amazon already supports ad-supported channels in Europe, including a partnership with Discovery that includes access to the company’s linear TV feeds in European markets. Amazon will open up similar possibilities in the U.S., he said. (Amazon stressed that this is a distinct offering from the existing Amazon Channels program, which focuses on subscription streaming channels.)

In the U.S., the Amazon Channels program offers subscriptions to top networks, including HBO, Showtime and CBS. Advertising could substantially benefit streaming networks such as CBS All Access that already offer ad-supported tiers on their own. Right now, anyone subscribing to CBS All Access through Amazon can only access the app’s $10 monthly ad-free tier. When Amazon opens up access to the app’s $6 ad-supported tier, CBS has a chance to create a second revenue stream from its Amazon partnership.

It’s hard to understate the impact the Amazon Channels program has had on the growth of subscription streaming services in the U.S. When NBCUniversal launched its now-defunct comedy streaming service Seeso in January 2016, Amazon accounted for upward of 60 to 70 percent of total subscribers, said Evan Shapiro, the former NBCU exec who launched Seeso. By the time Shapiro left NBCU in May 2017, Amazon Channels accounted for 40 percent of total subscribers, Shapiro said.

“That was because over time, we found organic [search] traffic migrating to the native platform,” Shapiro said. “But Amazon’s growth didn’t slow — and the best part of the Amazon Channels product was that the churn is substantially lower than others.”

Two other Amazon Channels partners at TV networks corroborated the program’s impact on their subscription apps, privately telling me that Amazon Channels contributes anywhere from 25 to 45 percent of total subscribers.

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