Amazon is quietly plotting to dominate live TV

Amazon is betting on live TV.
Amazon is betting on live TV.
Image: Reuters/Abhishek N. Chinnappa
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Amazon is working on a new live-streaming video project. The e-commerce giant is searching for an experienced media executive to head up programming for the new initiative, according to a job listing for a “Head of Content” posted to LinkedIn two weeks ago.

The new content lead, to be based in New York, will develop and oversee programming for the new streaming-video initiative. Amazon did not describe the project in the listing, but said the person would be tasked with “bringing all types of live video ideas to fruition.” It also said the ideal candidate would be able to use data to inform programming decisions, and would have a track record of creating content based on customer insights.

The live programming will be designed to appeal to both Amazon customers and advertisers, according to the listing, which suggests the video project will be supported by advertising. The Information reported (paywall) in August that the Internet Movie Database, an Amazon subsidiary, was working on a free, ad-supported video service for Fire TV devices called Free Dive. The report said Amazon was mainly licensing older TV shows that had already aired for the platform. It’s unclear whether it would feature new live programming as well. Amazon wasn’t immediately available to comment on its streaming initiatives.

Amazon already dabbles in live TV. It airs Thursday night NFL games live, and will start live-streaming Premier League soccer games in the UK in 2019. It sells subscriptions through its Prime Video Channels program to other platforms like HBO and CBS All Access, some of which include live TV, and it launched a hub for this live video on its Fire TV devices earlier this year. It owns live streaming platform Twitch, a service that primarily consists of people streaming videos of themselves playing video games. And, most recently, Amazon’s Lab 126—the research and development team that developed the Fire TV digital media player and Echo smart speakers—have been working on a device to record live TV, Bloomberg reported.

Whatever the offering, advertisers will likely be thrilled. They’ve been eager to work more with Amazon, which presents an alternative to Google and Facebook’s massive ad platforms—one that can be tied directly to sales as Amazon is first and foremost a place to sell things. But advertisers have been reluctant to spend more on the platform because the video inventory they covet has been in short supply. Video ads are often more engaging and effective than other digital ads, and advertisers are willing to spend more on them. Recently, the company has started introducing more advertising opportunities, such as rolling ads into Twitch Prime, a tier that offers perks to Twitch users who also subscribe to Amazon’s $119-per-year Prime service.