Amazon shelves vMVPD plans, doubles down on a la carte ‘Channels’

Amazon Prime Video shown on its Fire TV interface.
After 18 months of operation in the U.S., Amazon Channels has carved out a reputation among programmers as a viable alternative to traditional pay TV distribution. And for consumers, it is viewed as a true a la carte program bundling opportunity. (Amazon)

Amazon has reportedly put off plans to launch a livestreamed, virtual pay TV service and is instead focusing on its aggregated “Channels” platform. 

According to Bloomberg, citing unnamed sources, potential content suppliers have been told by Amazon engineers that they are focused right now on building out Amazon Channels, and that development of a virtual MVPD service will have to come later. 

An Amazon representative told FierceOnlineVideo that the company doesn’t comment on future plans. 

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Amazon Channels is a hub for members of Amazon’s Prime SVOD platform to add subscription video services. For example, an Amazon Prime customer can pay $14.99 a month to add HBO Now, no pay TV service required. The monthly fee for the premium service, which includes HBO live feeds plus a robust SVOD component, gets tacked on to their Amazon bill. 

On Monday, Amazon announced a major expansion of the channels program in the U.K. and Germany. Amazon Channels available in the U.K. will now include Discovery, Eurosport Player, ITV Hub+, hayu, MUBI, BFI Player, MGM, Hopster, Shudder and Heera, Amazon’s recently launched Bollywood channel.

In Germany and Austria, Amazon Channels will make available Arthouse CNMA, E! Entertainment HD, Kixi Select, MGM, MUBI, sportsdigital HD, Studio Universal Classics and Syfy Horror.

RELATED: Amazon Channels expands into the U.K. and Germany

After 18 months of operation in the U.S., Amazon Channels has carved out a reputation among programmers as a viable alternative to traditional pay TV distribution. And for consumers, it is viewed as a true a la carte program bundling opportunity. 

“They have scale like nobody else,” said Charley Humbard, chief executive officer of Up Entertainment, a cable programmer whose "Up: Faith & Family" will be part of the U.K. streaming initiative, to Bloomberg. “Their power is in their relationships with Prime members. They know what Prime members buy, how they behave. They’ve created a platform that works.”

“We very much see this as the start of something big, something new for our service,” Alex Green, managing director of Amazon Video, also said to the news service. The U.S. channels project has “done very well for us,” he added.

The success with the model is apparently making Amazon rethink the virtual bundles being assembled by rivals YouTube and Hulu. 

"In the U.S., YouTube, Amazon, Apple and Facebook have been vocal about getting TV bundles together, but YouTube is the only one to have done it so far," said Enders analyst Tom Harrington to the BBC. "It's very hard to build from all these different suppliers and put these channels together at a price that is compatible to a cable offering."

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