Streaming is the future, but Amazon wants to invest in live TV. Here’s why
For a company as disruptive as Amazon, investing more money into something like traditional linear television feels odd. Network ratings are in continual decline, while streaming consumption on platforms like Netflix, Disney+, and yes, Prime Video, soars.
But further investment in live TV is exactly what the e-commerce behemoth is exploring. A new report from tech publication Protocol pointed out a number of new job postings for Amazon’s Prime Video department focusing on linear broadcasting. “It is Day 1 for the linear TV experience on Prime Video,” one of the postings for a software development engineer says. “This is your opportunity to take an active role in shaping the future of digital video by defining the next generation of what Amazon customers are watching.”
A source Protocol described as an “industry insider” told the outlet that Amazon has been “actively pursuing” deals to license live and linear programming. “You should assume they’re talking to everybody,” the source added. Amazon declined to comment to Protocol on the matter.
When contacted by Fortune, an Amazon spokesperson said that Amazon already had hundreds of live TV stations around the world, and that some like CBS All Access and Showtime were available to customers who sign up for those subscriptions to access a 24/7 feed. “There isn’t anything new here,” the Amazon spokesperson said. “Just adding teams to support our current offerings.”
However, Prime Video is still adding employees to its ranks with job listings boldly declaring that hires can “redefine how customers watch 24/7 linear broadcast TV content.” A listing adds that a product manager role will “work directly with global business stakeholders to identify opportunities to improve acquisition, engagement, and content selection,” suggesting that Amazon is indeed looking into more licensing deals.
Even though on-demand streaming services have become the go-to mode of consumption for television watchers, live television still matters. For now, it remains the primary destination for sports, award shows, and certain popular reality-TV series. People still need to access scheduled linear programming; they’re just doing it less through traditional cable and satellite providers. Services like Hulu have combined original streaming programming and standard live TV channels with success. Amazon may be after a similar model. “Although video on demand is on the rise, the global viewing hours weighs in favor of live or scheduled TV and [over the top] linear streaming is predicted to grow by 64% in next two years,” one of Amazon’s job postings says.
The company has already shown its eagerness to dip into programming such as live sports, having licensed NFL Thursday Night Football and the English Premier League in recent years. Amazon also began streaming live news channels like ABC News, CBS News, Bloomberg, Reuters, and more on its Fire TV devices last year.
If Amazon were able to secure more licensing deals with linear broadcast networks, it could make Prime Video an especially compelling offer. As Protocol points out, it could be a more narrow take on live TV, leveraging much of its existing original content combined with a limited selection of “must see” channels. But if those licensing deals included things like major sports leagues or access to popular reality television, Amazon could have a particularly enticing offer for customers in hand.
The future—at least for now—is not a lack of live TV; it’s just live TV that’s actually convenient to access and worth paying for. With Amazon’s streaming apps, Fire TV compatibility, and other benefits like its two-day delivery and grocery services, Amazon may well offer that.