Amazon expands Amazon Channels to UK, Germany, taking aim at pay-TV users

The race to control the TV is on, and today comes some news out of Europe underscoring Amazon’s ambitions in that department. The e-commerce giant announced the launch of Amazon Channels in the UK and Germany — its two biggest markets in the region — which will see Amazon, for the first time, offer close to 50 live and on-demand streamed channels to the region as part of its Amazon Prime service.

This is not just the first time that Amazon will offer live TV in Europe, tapping into what remains the most popular format for TV viewing in the region, despite the insurgence of on-demand content via the internet. Notably, Amazon Channels will be the first time that many popular channels like Discovery will be available for people to pay for and watch without subscribing to a larger, more expensive bundle of channels through a pay-TV provider like Sky or BT.

In other words, this will let Amazon squarely target consumers who are tired of paying high monthly premiums and are considering “cord-cutting.” Prices for each channel on Amazon Channels will range from £1.49/month to £9.49/month, with many coming in at around £3.99-£4.99.

We asked, but Amazon declined to specify what the business model is for Amazon Channels, if it gets a percentage from each subscription and what that might be. (As a point of comparison, Apple takes 30 percent on in-app purchases, but only 15 percent when those purchases are subscriptions.)

“For the first time, Prime members in the UK and Germany will be able to choose to watch premium TV channels without having to sign up to a bundle or a contract, giving them the freedom to pay for only what they want to watch,” said Alex Green, MD, Europe, Amazon Channels, in a statement. “From live sport to Bollywood, art house cinema to reality TV, and award-winning TV shows from popular channels like Discovery and ITV, Amazon Channels gives power back to customers to choose exactly what they want to watch.”

While cord cutting has been a pretty significant theme in the U.S. market, in the U.K. and Germany there have been precious few options for people to pick and choose what they want to watch, with most people instead getting tied into large packages, or taking nothing at all.

Amazon Prime, for background, is the company’s all-in-one subscription (£7.99/month or £5.99/month for just video in the UK; €8.99/month or €7.99/month for video in Germany), and as in the U.S., Amazon throws in lots of things to tie people into paying for it each month and using Amazon for their various shopping needs. These days, this includes free and fast shipping, and entertainment like Amazon Music and Prime Video.

And as with other Amazon video services — and unlike some others like Apple TV — there is no shortage of ways to consume Amazon Channels. You will be able to access Amazon Channels via Amazon’s Prime Video app, as well as the Amazon Video app on smart TVs, iOs and Android mobile devices; Amazon Fire TV, Fire TV Stick, and Fire tablets; games consoles; and finally through the good old world wide web. (Oh, and if you believe the reports, possibly through Apple TV soon, too.)

This is a somewhat slow rollout of Amazon Channels, which first launched in the U.S. back in 2015 with the significantly less catchy title of Amazon Streaming Partners. It comes on the heels of Amazon already offering a sizeable number of titles on demand either directly or through third-party partners.

Launching Amazon Channels in Europe, in contrast, gives Amazon a direct line for providing content itself. It follows a number of other moves that Amazon has been making in the areas of video, entertainment and TV. These include:

  • Amazon’s launch of the Echo Show earlier this month — its Alexa voice-powered home hub with a screen — which we noted at the time looked like a small screen TV and felt like a very significant step towards making an actual TV set.
  • Amazon’s growing relationships with more established pay-TV providers — for example, its integration with Dish TV in the U.S. announced yesterday, which lets you control your Dish service with your voice.
  • Amazon’s sizeable original content efforts, producing its own films and TV shows. Earlier this year the company picked up its first Oscars.
  • Amazon ramping up its live events business with music concerts, and tying these in with a video component. As with so much of Amazon’s new efforts, this is rolling out as a perk for Prime subscribers.
  • Amazon’s reported interest in bidding for broadcast rights for sports like tennis and rugby.

While other new players in the TV arena like Facebook and Twitter have secured deals in sports broadcasts in recent times, we have yet to hear of anything from Amazon. I say watch this space… literally and figuratively.

Notably, the launch of Amazon Channels today includes the Eurosport channel, which already broadcasts coverage of the French Open tennis tournament and the Tour de France bicycle race (a personal favorite of mine).

The Eurosport launch, and the bigger Amazon Channels move, both highlight an important point, perhaps just as significant as Amazon’s obvious strategy to keep adding more services to Prime to attract more subscribers (a strategy it’s been following for years now).

By offering Amazon Channels, it’s giving the company — a veritable vacuum and conjurer when it comes to big data — a direct line to being able to observe what it is that people like to watch. This, in turn, will help Amazon itself build up ideas for what areas it can move into next — be it securing sports rights, ideas for what original content it might want to produce next, or perhaps deciding what to try to sell to you.

On the part of broadcasters, having Amazon wade into the TV fray with Amazon Channels is probably coming just at the right time. Companies like ITV — a commercial, terrestrial channel that is the largest broadcaster in the UK in terms of overall weekly viewers — have long been looking for ways of boosting its numbers and recapturing more users who have turned away from traditional, linear TV and now opt to watch video on demand on their tablets or computers, or TVs connected to the internet.

“The ITV Hub is all about giving viewers more choice about how and when they access their favourite ITV shows, including watching without the ads via ITV Hub+ for £3.99 per month,” said Simon Pitts, ITV Managing Director, Online, Pay and Interactive, in a statement. “We’re delighted to be part of the Amazon Channels launch line-up in the UK.”

While pay-TV companies have long held the upper hand when it comes to offering consumers these channels and the on-demand components behind them, now the broadcasters will have one more way to bypass this and stand apart from noisy bundles.

“We are delighted to bring our premium factual and sports content to Amazon Prime members. This partnership underlines our strategic ambition to reach people across every screen,” Susanna Dinnage, president of Discovery Networks UK and chief content officer, international, said in a statement. “Amazon Prime members can now experience the shows that are loved by Discovery fans as well as enjoy an exciting summer of sport which is about to kick off on the Eurosport Player.”

I’ll be looking forward to seeing just how well this is used. If it’s up to Amazon, as with so many other sales and audience figures in its wider product universe, I’m not expecting to see any hard numbers for viewing, although hopefully this will get picked up by some of the analytics firms who track TV viewing.

Below is the full run-down of channels in the UK. For those of you interested in the German list, you can find that here.

  • Acacia TV – Hundreds of fun and effective workouts for every fitness level for £5.99 a month
  • Alchemiya – Great films and documentaries about Muslim culture and life for £3.99 a month
  • Arrow Video – On demand cult classics and horror from Arrow Films for £4.99 a month
  • BFI Player+ – On Demand classic British and critically acclaimed movies for £4.99 a month
  • BeFit UK –  Get fit fast with unlimited streaming of hundreds of workouts for £5.99 a month
  • Comic Con HQ – Fan-favourite films, original programming, exclusive access and more for £4.99 a month
  • Curiosity Stream – Exclusive documentaries from the world’s best filmmakers in HD for £5.49 a month
  • Daily Burn – On Demand and live workouts including dance, strength training, yoga, cardio and more for £9.99 a month
  • Discovery – Documentaries and unscripted entertainment from Discovery for £4.99 a month
  • Eurosport Player – Live and On Demand sports programming, including Grand Slam tennis, cycling and winter sports for £6.99 a month
  • Fandor – A hand-picked collection of the most talked about indie, foreign and classic films for £3.49 a month
  • Filmbox – Hollywood movies, favourite evergreens and popular series for £3.99 a month
  • Full Moon Features – All the Full Moon classics and new releases on demand for £3.99 a month
  • Gaia – Yoga, nutrition, meditation and more for £7.99 a month
  • Horse & Country Play – The home of equestrianism and British country lifestyle, now on demand for £3.99 a month
  • ITV Hub+ – Watch live, download your favourite ITV shows for offline viewing, and catch up on tons of ad-free episodes for £3.99 a month
  • hayu (NBC Universal) – On Demand reality TV programming including Keeping Up with the Kardashians for £3.99 a month
  • Heera – An Amazon-exclusive on demand channel with over 600 Bollywood, Bengali, Marathi, Tamil, and Telegu movies and series including blockbusters like Sultan and Kabali for only £3.99 a month
  • Hopster – Make screen time smart with safe, ad-free content for kids for £3.99 a month
  • Ketchup TV – Hundreds of episodes of shows for kids, packed with their favourites for £2.29 a month
  • Love Nature – Ad-free, family friendly nature documentaries on demand for £3.99 a month
  • MGM – Hollywood hits, timeless classics and cult favourites movies from MGM for £4.49 a month
  • Motorvision – On Demand TV dedicated to the automotive world including car reviews & tests, motorsports and lifestyle shows for £2.99 a month
  • MUBI – A new, critically acclaimed movie to stream every day for £5.99 a month
  • Nautical Channel – The network focused on sailing lifestyle, available live and on-demand for £3.99 a month
  • Nordic Noir and Beyond – The best thriller, crime and drama series from the Nordics and beyond for £4.99 a month
  • Panna – Easy-to-follow video recipes from master chefs and cooking courses for £1.49 a month
  • Pinoy Box Office – Filipino movies and series on demand for £1.99 a month
  • Planet Knowledge – Exciting and informative HD documentaries on nature, history, culture and more for £2.29 a month
  • Pongalo Next – Latin American movies and series on demand for £2.99 a month
  • Qello Concerts – The greatest concert films from icons and new artists like The Who, Queen, The Beatles, Muse and more for £5.99 a month
  • Realeyz – Independent films by award-winning filmmakers on demand for £4.99 a month
  • Rooster Teeth – Original sci-fi, gaming and comedy for £3.99 a month
  • Shudder – Backed by AMC Networks, Shudder super-serves fans of thrillers, suspense, and horror for £4.99 a month
  • Studio Universal Classics – Classic movies from Universal Studios for £3.99 a month
  • Sweatflix – Stream HIIT workouts and yoga flows for £9.49 a month
  • Tastemade Plus – Our network of Tastemakers bring great food and travel to the world for £1.99 a month
  • The Great Courses Signature Collection – A curated collection of educational courses On Demand for £5.49 a month
  • UP Family – Entertainment for the whole family for £3.49 a month
  • Viewster Anime – ad-free anime on demand from Viewster for £2.99 a month
  • Yoga Anytime Channel – HD yoga videos on demand for £6.99 a month