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Amazon To Expand Ad-Supported OTT Services, Apple News Is Dead To Me

1. Amazon To Expand Ad-Supported OTT Services

Multiple reports (including this one by our own Jason Damata) have Amazon upping its ad-supported OTT game, adding in a news channel and asking for commitments of big bucks to support the growth of its ad-supported activities, both via FreeDive, the Roku Channel-esque aggregator app it launched via IMDb and via AVOD channels “to be announced later” on Amazon Fire TV.

Why It Matters

Even though Alexa integration is the main thing it’s got going for it (the interface is pretty awful), Fire TV has managed to grab a sizable chunk of market share. Whether they’re ahead of Roku or not is anyone’s guess as both companies use different metrics—Fire TV counts “registered accounts” while Roku counts “active accounts” and, as noted by our friends at Cheddar, “Amazon has not defined what an active user is.”

So there’s that.

But there’s also all that data. Because Amazon knows exactly what all those viewers have bought and browsed and returned and what people like them have bought and browsed and returned. Or, as you’ve heard us say time and again, “Facebook knows who we want to be, but Amazon knows who we really are.”

So the question is how valuable is all that data to marketers before they even know what the programs look like? 

That’s the eternal question with all of the new OTT entrants: if no one is watching their shows, then the data is worthless. And much as they’d like to pretend that they can magically make hit shows from analyzing data, that’s just a crock of shit. As this piece in Vice about how great actors wind up in bad movies and shows, even with the best casts, crews and scripts, things can quickly go awry and you wind up with something no one wants to watch.

What You Need To Do About It

Not much to do at this point other than wait till you see what Amazon’s programming looks like and whether anyone will watch it. There are many companies out there aggregating library content and it’s not too hard to beat Fire TV’s UX (or lack thereof.)

And if the whole world of ad-supported OTT has you scratching your head, then just get yourself a copy of the TV[R]EV special report on ad-supported OTT. It’s 56 pages on how this whole ecosystem works, written in the same enjoyably conversational style TVREV has become known for.

2. Apple News Is Dead To Me

I used to love the Apple News app on my phone. It knew which subscription sites I had signed up for, which ad-supported sites I liked, and every morning it presented me with a range of news about a variety of topics—politics, sports, tech, media and local news—that I could read while I was drinking coffee or walking the dog.

But then the “+” app came along and ruined everything.

Now half the stories in my feed are marked “+ only” and even if I already had a subscription to that site, Apple News forbids me to read them, taking me instead to a screen that urges me to sign up for “+” instead.  (This is particularly frustrating, because different stories from the same subscription site would show up below under “News from sites you subscribe to” or something like that.)

Overnight, the app became useless and yesterday I deleted it. I suspect I am not alone.

Why It Matters

Aggregation is a great idea but it’s not that easy to pull off. Ditto maintaining a free service and an ad-supported one.

There’s a line between “subtle upsell” and “annoying AF” and Apple went straight for the latter and cranked it up to 11.

It’s a line that many of the new Flixes are going to have to walk this year too, as they try and figure out where the line is between their existing services and their new OTT services, what viewers can expect on each and how blatantly they try and upsell those viewers.

Cross the line too many times and viewers are likely to just punch and delete—there are just too many other options right now to deal with poor user experience.

What You Need To Do About It

If you’re one of the new Flixes, you need to chill on the upsell and figure out where all those potential fault lines are (e.g., where does Warnerflix begin and HBO end?) so that some of your customers feel like they’re getting the short end of the stick. Worse still are plans where customers with lesser subscription plans are constantly being shown previews of shows they might be interested in.. but only if they spend a few more dollars a month to upgrade.

That’s the quickest way to kill off your service and if several Flixes are doing it, the quickest way to put a damper on the entire category.

Caveat venditor.