Since September, Amazon’s been touting the ability to watch videos on their Kindle Fire tablets. And a smaller free video library is also available, both on Kindle Fires and online, for subscribers to Amazon’s Prime shipping service, which offers faster deliveries from Amazon for just $79 a year. But on Thursday, a business magazine looked closely at Amazon’s claim that that free library included “more than 17,000 movies and TV shows.” Their conclusion?
“Only 1,745 movies are available to stream on the company’s Prime service, and just roughly 150 TV series.”
According to Fast Company magazine, Amazon’s counting each episode of a TV show as a separate show. “For example, Amazon does not count 24 as one TV show; rather, it counts every episode in all eight seasons toward its [free] library of 17,000 movies and television shows. So, according to Amazon’s logic, Kiefer Sutherland stars in 192 TV shows. Amazon counts The X-Files more than 200 times and Grey’s Anatomy 170 times.” And because so many different TV shows were based on the “Power Ranger” characters, “Power Rangers-related episodes are counted as about 715 shows in its streaming library — that is, 4.2% of the 17,000 movies and television shows Amazon says it offers. ”
It’s important to recognize that this is the smaller free library of videos available to Amazon Prime subscribers. There’s seven times as many videos available for Kindle Fire owners in Amazon’s “Instant Video” library – more than 120,000 – and all those videos can also be watched online. (And starting 10 days ago, all those videos are now even available on a PlayStation 3). Of course, you have to wonder if Amazon is also counting individual episodes in those figures as well. Even Netflix, which offers a competing service that “streams” videos for online viewing, has just 9,500 movies available online, and 3,500 different TV series, according to an industry watcher who was interviewed by Fast Company.
But its apparently been very difficult for Amazon to find free content for its Prime video library. As recently as one month ago, that library offered just 5,000 “titles”, according to one press release. Amazon was only able to add 12,000 more titles after a deal with Discovery Communications to add programs from their cable channels — like Animal Planet and the Discovery Channel — and even then, only episodes from past seasons. These non-fiction shows apparently now account for 70% of Amazon’s video library – shows like Say Yes to the Dress and Animal Planet’s Whale Wars.
It feels a little sneaky that Amazon counted individual episodes as “titles” – so I decided to see just what was available, by scanning Amazon’s list of their most popular Prime videos. After Downton Abbey, its most-popular TV shows were SpongeBob SquarePants and Dora the Explorer, and there were three more children’s shows in the top 12. Four more of the top shows looked like non-fiction shows from Amazon’s “Discovery” deal – Mythbusters Deadliest Catch, Man vs. Wild, and Toddlers and Tiaras. But their “Editor’s Pick” section had some intriguing additional shows, including British classics like Dr. Who and Monty Python’s Flying Circus, plus classic American shows like NYPD Blue, Cheers, Better Off Ted, and the original Hawaii Five-O. But the #2 slot on most-popular free movie list went to Zombie Strippers, a horror comedy starring former porn actress Jenna Jameson and “Nightmare on Elm Street” star Robert Englund.
I guess the lesson here is simple. If you’re signing up for Amazon Prime just to use its video service, do some research first to make sure it’s got the videos you want to see!