Of the three streaming platforms operated by Amazon – Prime Video, IMDb TV and Twitch – IMDb TV is the least covered and the least understood.
Amazon’s streaming strategy, like others in the space like ViacomCBS’ PlutoTV and NBCU’s Peacock, has been to have separate free and paid tiers. Where the strategy differs is in how IMDb TV doesn’t just pick up TV reruns, but creates and delivers high-quality content.
The recent announcement that Prime Video and IMDb TV will have exclusive access to Universal’s live-action films from 2022 – once Peacock has them for four months for the first time – likely came as a surprise to a lot, but not for those familiar with Amazon’s plans for IMDb TV.
These plans involve making IMDb TV the destination for free streaming. It’s why Dick Wolf and Judge Judy create originals for the service, not Prime Video, and why IMDb TV doesn’t have past seasons of Prime originals as its main hook.
The Universal deal also represents another shot through the arcs of other free streaming services that have also announced original shows in the Newfronts. It will be interesting to see if this changes the strategies of Tubi, Roku and Peacock Free going forward.
IMDb TV has been slowly adding features to position it as a service that can allow viewers to watch longer and therefore receive ads (and more things to buy on Amazon), with high-quality shows and movies, latest in a range of innovations designed to make the free streamer stand out.
The service launched in January 2019 as Freedive as an AVOD-only service, rebranding in June 2019 as IMDb TV. Linear Streaming Channels arrived in the summer of 2020 and have since expanded to include premium creator channels like AMC Networks and A&E Networks. Amazon showed strategic agility here, pivoting where needed – i.e. Freedive’s poor launch.
IMDb’s content expansion doesn’t stop with the Universal movies deal. Assuming Amazon is allowed to acquire MGM, this deal will provide fuel for IMDb TV in the form of MGM’s much-vaunted reality television production studio.
While the majority of analysts completely ignored this when announcing the acquisition, opting instead to focus on the paltry production of MGM’s film studio, the us that Amazon Studios will now have access to will help create even more shows designed to keep viewers watching IMDb TV.
Research firm Magid found that IMDb TV accounted for 9% of all free streaming in the US in early April, with IMDb TV since available on more platforms (including LG smart TVs and PlayStation 4 consoles) . With premium content soon to be available on IMDb TV, the share is expected to continue to grow both from existing users of other services and by attracting more new free-to-stream viewers.