Amazon is spending a ton on video, but it’s still just a complement to Netflix

Mrs. Maisel may be marvelous, but Amazon Video isn’t quite yet.
Mrs. Maisel may be marvelous, but Amazon Video isn’t quite yet.
Image: Amazon Prime Video via EPK
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New Amazon Studios head Jennifer Salke has her work cut out for her turning Prime Video into must-see TV.

The streaming-video service, which comes as part of the $119-a-year Prime shipping subscription in the US, is mostly used as an add-on to other services like Netflix, research finds. About 85% of people who watch Prime Video in the US also have Netflix, according to MoffettNathanson.

Those Prime members subscribe to Netflix and other services like Hulu primarily because Prime Video doesn’t have a broad enough selection of content that interests them or the content isn’t up to par with Netflix’s and Hulu’s, the research firm found. Women and subscribers ages 18-34 were especially dissatisfied with the Prime Video library.

MoffettNathanson surveyed 1,300 respondents in the US who said they had Amazon Prime. Two-thirds of those subscribers said they took advantage of the free access to Prime Video.

The majority of those that didn’t watch Prime Video said they already got the TV shows and movies they want through Netflix, Hulu, and other channels; others said they didn’t know enough about Prime Video, or didn’t find programming that interested them.

Most Americans have access to three to four pay-TV services, including cable or satellite subscriptions, but only use about two regularly, other research from PwC has shown. Netflix has managed to solidify itself as one of those go-to platforms.

Salke, the former president of NBC Entertainment who joined Amazon in February, has been tasked with revamping Amazon’s video programming to make Prime Video indispensable—moving from award-winning, yet niche fare like Transparent and Mozart in the Jungle to churning out hits on par with Game of Thrones. At the behest of chief executive Jeff Bezos, Salke recently picked up top-rated sci-fi series The Expanse. The service is also developing a TV series around Lord of the Rings.

One of Amazon’s biggest hurdles developing content has been its transient relationships with talent, something Salke intends to fix (paywall). She put a team in place that has deep ties in Hollywood, and recently signed TV deals with top creators like Jordan Peele and Nicole Kidman.

Amazon plans to spend around $4.5 billion on originals this year, about half of Netflix’s overall content budget. But big productions take time, and MoffettNathanson’s analysts argue a Whole Foods-like acquisition of a mid-level media company such as CBS could help Prime Video get back on track more quickly. So far, tech companies moving into Hollywood like Netflix and Apple have been reluctant to buy legacy studios, choosing instead to build their own from scratch.