Why I tried Amazon Prime.
I have a small obsession in my life; I want to ditch the monthly cable bill. The problem is, the other members in my family enjoy the cable service and want to keep it. So my quest for a lower monthly alternative to television programming continues year-after-year. To be fair, they consume more video content than I do. I’m sure the TV industry is thankful that my television consumption habits are in the minority. My family likes current programming offered by the networks and cable channels. They use both the cable on-demand service as well as a DVR to record content.
My latest test was the Amazon Prime service. At the end of the first 48 hours my kids told me they didn’t see any value in the service and my wife reminded me that she was right (again). She had told me before that Amazon Prime is intended to serve as a video supplement to television programming, not a replacement of the primary content source. Based on her expectations and viewing habits, I’ll say I have to agree with her.
To review the service I used several devices:
* A Samsung TV via ethernet hookup Amazon Prime App
* A Sony DVD player via ether hookup and Amazon Prime App
* An iPad
* A PC
The Amazon Prime annual fee is $79 and includes three services:
1. Free 2-day shipping on purchases
2. Free video streaming for select content
3. Access to the Kindle lending library
The shipping fee scales well for high volume internet purchasers. If standard delivery is typically around $6 then you would break-even after 13 or so purchases while getting a faster delivery. (Read how Amazon prime is very profitable for Amazon). I didn’t sign-up for the trial based on the shipping feature, but for many consumers this is the primary draw to the service. We did take advantage of the free shipping with a few purchases during our trial period. But in general I don’t purchase items online where I have to have 2-day delivery over standard shipping. I’m content to have standard delivery. Associating the 2-day delivery service with Prime is a brilliant marketing program and is generating millions in profits for Amazon.
At $79/year that is $6.58/month which is better than NetFlix at $7.99/month. Plus you get more with the Amazon subscription. To be fair to Netflix, should compare content libraries. But, agreements with studios aside, the services are similar.
I own a Kindle and do occasionally purchase books from Amazon for it. I also use my public library from time-to-time. I like this feature as an alternative to buying books that I’ll read once and probably never touch again.
The quality of the content on the high definition streaming was excellent. I had minimal issues with disruptions of the stream.
There were no commercials for television content. We streamed an episode of Grimm Season 1 commercial free to test for this. Similar to mindset of a paid music subscription, consumers expect if they are paying for the service then they can see it advertisment-free.
It is possible to start consuming content on one device, pause it, and then resume on another device.
Most of the videos included with Prime are old. Maybe that’s the point. Is this just suppose to be a digital library? If so it’s certainly better than buying videos, watching them once or twice and then sticking them on a shelf. But if you are looking for recent movies like what you find at Red Box, they are not included as part of the Prime subscription. You can buy or rent those movies for additional fees.
Access to television shows are tied-up with network contracts. I went to see a season 1 episode of NCIS from 2003. The only option is to buy episodes. Yet Grimm Season 1 from 2011 is available for free streaming for Amazon Prime members. Access to same season episodes is available for purchase. I should note that we can get access to current television programming via the cable on-demand service.This single limitation is the main reason why Amazon Prime isn’t a cable replacement alternative for my other family members.
I was able to define a watch-list using my computer for content that I wanted to queue for later viewing. But the two TV devices I have don’t show the watch-list from their console. It appears this is for computing devices only.
The Samsung TV and Sony DVD player GUI is a bit clumsy and slow. I found the best way to get something was to just type it in the search box. The Samsung TV interface was extremely sluggish on response time. This may have more to do with the age of the equipment.
Some closing thoughts.
Could this replace cable TV? For me yes. I don’t watch much television programming and if I want to see something current then I can typically find it on the web site of the provider. But I couldn’t help thinking that services like this change the model of video consumption. It’s not as easy to “channel surf” with no real goal in mind. In most cases you have to make a deliberate decision to watch content because changing content takes longer than changing channels.
I think the financials of Amazon Prime are a good consumer deal if you are willing to lock into Amazon for your retail purchases. My experience is that this is not a bad thing because for commodity items, Amazon often has the lowest or close to the lowest pricing. The shipping component for purchases is the way to get payed back for the subscription fee. The free video content is just an extra nice-to-have, and should not be a primary consideration of paying the subscription.
I’ll most likely cancel the service before the 30 day trial completes. It didn’t satisfy my video content needs (getting rid of cable) and I don’t know that I want to lock into the Amazon retail experience to feel like I’m paying myself back for the subscription price.
My war against the cable television bill continues…