Amazon is planning to give Prime Video a big makeover

Could user profiles and better personalization features be coming to Amazon’s Prime Video app at long last? The company’s new Amazon Studios head Jennifer Salke just teased that a major upgrade to Amazon’s streaming video app is in the works – and she already has it running on a phone in her office, she said.

The exec was speaking at the Television Critics Association’s summer press tour in L.A., according to reports from AdWeek [paywall], TheWrap, and Deadline, when she mentioned the app’s big makeover.

And while Salke’s statements were light on key details – like when such an effort would reach end users, for example, or what changes, exactly, would be in store, there’s plenty of room to speculate on what Prime Video’s app today lacks.

For starters, unlike competitors such as Netflix and Hulu, Prime Video’s app doesn’t focus on making personalized recommendations about what to watch next.

Instead, the interface features a number of content groupings of shows or movies that are “included with Prime.” These are organized by category and type – like “Comedy Movies” or “Recently Added TV,” for example. It also showcases content that’s top rated, popular, or trending, along with some of its own editorial recommendations, like a section for Amazon’s “Original Movies” or its “Exclusive TV.”

A row may be dedicated to suggestions things to watch next based on viewing history, but it’s easily overlooked. Overall, the interface has always felt more focused on pushing Prime content in a variety of ways, rather than helping you discover new things you’ll actually like.

What makes this worse is that Amazon doesn’t offer user profiles, where household members could each have their own watchlist and set of recommendations – features that are standard on rival streaming apps today, including Hulu, Netflix, and even newcomers like YouTube TV.

And though Amazon does offer parental controls to lock down viewing, it doesn’t allow parents and kids to keep separate profiles where adult content is actually hidden from children.

These would all be obvious areas of improvement for a new Amazon Prime Video app, along with a better mechanism for discovering Prime Video’s optional add-on subscriptions, known as Prime Video Channels. Amazon today lets users build their own a la carte TV service by selecting premium channels like HBO, Showtime, Starz, CBS All Access, and more. But the Prime Video app itself doesn’t make channel suggestions in any sort of personal way – it simply offers an interface where you can browse through all of them.

But Amazon’s Prime Video Channels are rapidly becoming a driving force for over-the-top viewing, accounting for 55 percent of all direct-to-consumer video subscriptions. Amazon could easily revamp this feature to make it an even better selling point for Prime Video app users.

And of course, Amazon could still do a better job of highlighting its own originals – especially as it now has Emmy award winners and new nominees to promote – but in a way that feels more in tune with the viewers’ interests.

The company has at least publicly acknowledged that profiles are something it knows users want. In fact, it has even responded to incoming tweets with comments that explain how profiles aren’t available “at this time,” or “yet,” or say that’s a “good suggestion” when people offer feedback.

As for Salke’s statements, the most she offered is that the new Prime Video interface is “much more intuitive,” which hints towards improved navigation and how she finds it be “sort of seamless the way they’ve actually…” well, something – she cut herself off from that last reveal, by saying “I don’t know if I should give it away. It’s cool!”

Uh-huh. Good one.

She does say that the team wanted to develop the best UI (user interface) to line up with Amazon’s investment – meaning, apparently, the app should better highlight Amazon’s ~$4+ billion spent on original programming this year.

She also mentioned some of its upcoming high-profile series, like the sci-fi fan favorite “The Expanse,” which Amazon rescued from Syfy’s cancellation; the new “Lord of the Rings” project; and the Julia Roberts thriller “Homecoming,” directed by “Mr. Robot’s” Sam Esmail. Plus, she referenced three new series, including “The Expatriates,” from Nicole Kidman’s production company; Lena Waithe’s exec-produced horror series “Them;” and the sci-fi romantic comedy from “The Office’s” Greg Daniels, called “Upload.”