Amazon Denies Reports Regarding Shuttering Ad-Supported Freevee Streaming Platform

Amazon says it has no plans to shutter its Freevee ad-supported streaming television platform, which launched in 2019 as IMDb TV before rebranding as Freevee in 2022 affording viewers free access to original and catalog content.

Media reports had suggested Amazon was ending the platform after it initiated ad-supported content on the Prime Video service last month.

“There are no changes to Freevee. [It] remains an important streaming offering providing both Prime and non-Prime customers thousands of hit movies, shows, and Originals,” an Amazon spokesperson said in an email statement.

Earlier this month, Freevee, which offers 400 free ad-supported streaming television (FAST) channels, added a TMZ FAST channel as well as 17 new local news FAST channels from Fox, with live and breaking news for respective cities and the surrounding area.

Subscribe HERE to the FREE Media Play News Daily Newsletter!

Freevee scored a critical hit a year ago with the sitcom “Jury Duty,” which found an unsuspecting civilian reporting to what he thought was actual jury duty, but instead was a fictional court filled with character actors, including James Marsden.

Ad-Supported Prime Video Option Hit With Class Action Lawsuit

A Prime Video subscriber in California has filed a lawsuit against Amazon alleging the recent rollout of an ad-supported option forces annual and longtime subscribers to pay more ($2.99 monthly) for the ad-free service option.

The suit, filed Filed Feb. 9 by plaintiff Wilbert Napoleon in U.S. District Court in Washington, alleges Amazon is violating multiple consumer protection laws by misleading Prime subscribers who signed up with the belief they were getting access to ad-free video content.

Napoleon, who renewed his annual Prime membership in June 2023, believes he should have access to ad-free Prime Video through May 2024 before having to decide whether to pay an additional monthly fee.

“Reasonable consumers expect that, if you purchase a subscription with ad-free streaming of movies and tv shows, that the ad-free streaming for movies and TV shows is available for the duration of the purchased subscription,” read the complaint.

Napoleon, who is seeking an injunction and undisclosed financial damages, wants the suit classified as class action status affecting all Prime subscribers through Dec. 28, 2023. The suit claims there are 160 million Prime subscribers in the United States.

Subscribe HERE to the FREE Media Play News Daily Newsletter!

Amazon Ups Q4 Subscription Revenue 14% to $10.5 Billion

Amazon Feb. 1 reported fourth-quarter (ended Dec. 31, 2023) subscription services revenue of $10.48 billion, which was up 14% from revenue of $9.18 billion during the previous-year period.

The business segment includes annual and monthly fees associated with Prime memberships, as well as digital video, audiobook, digital music, e-book, and other non-AWS subscription services.

Online sales topped $70.5 billion, compared with sales of $64.5 billion during the previous-year period. The segment includes media products available in both a physical (DVD, Blu-ray Disc) and digital format, books, videos, games, music and software. These product sales also include digital products sold on a transactional basis.

Meanwhile, the company disclosed that its increased content spending in 2023 around 14% to $18.9 billion from $16.6 billion in 2022.

In the quarter, Prime Video increased total viewership for the second season of “NFL Thursday Night Football” by 24% year over year, and had double-digit growth (14%) for the second consecutive season in the hard-to-reach 18–34-year-old demographic, according to Nielsen. The Nov. 30, 2023, Seahawks-Cowboys game attracted 15.3 million viewers, becoming Prime Video’s most watched “TNF” game ever, according to Nielsen.

Prime Video released 16 movies and series from Amazon MGM Studios, including the second season of “Reacher,” which was the No. 1 title on Nielsen’s Top 10 Originals Streaming chart for the week it debuted, and had the highest number of minutes viewed for any Prime Video title during a single week in 2023, according to Nielsen.

The second season of “Invincible” was the most-viewed animated series ever on Prime Video globally; the holiday movie comedy Candy Cane Lane, starring Eddie Murphy, was one of the Top 10 most-watched worldwide movie debuts ever on Prime Video; and the thriller Saltburn had the highest week-over-week audience growth of any movie on Prime Video in 2023, followed by dramedy American Fiction, and sports drama The Boys in the Boat.

Amazon MGM Studios earned 16 Golden Globe nominations, 68 Emmy nominations and nine wins, and 21 Critics Choice Award nominations for content such as American Fiction, Saltburn, “Daisy Jones & The Six,” “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel,” and “The Boys.” For the upcoming Oscars, the studio earned five nominations for American Fiction, including for Best Picture.

Prime Video’s international slate of content featured more than 60 local Amazon Originals, including Canada’s Mr. Dressup: The Magic of Make-Believe, which was winner of the 2023 People’s Choice Award for Documentary at the Toronto International Film Festival; Chile’s Sayen: La Ruta Seca, the action-packed sequel to the most watched Latin American Original movie ever on Prime Video; Spain’s “Operación Triunfo,” Prime Video’s first weekly live entertainment show; and the U.K.’s “007: Road to a Million,” the first James Bond television format, which was No. 1 on Prime Video in 27 countries worldwide on its launch weekend.

Subscribe HERE to the FREE Media Play News Daily Newsletter!

Prime Video also expanded its global sports programming with the debut of original sports documentaries Kelce, chronicling Philadelphia Eagles captain Jason Kelce’s 2022 season, and Bye Bye Barry, the story of Barry Sanders’ decision to retire at the height of his NFL career. In live sports, Prime Video added new broadcast rights for NASCAR, the National Women’s Soccer League, and Premier Boxing Champions in the United States; ICC Cricket in Australia; and Wimbledon tennis in Austria and Germany.

Amazon MGM Studios, Tastemade in First-Look Deal to Produce Lifestyle Content

Amazon MGM Studios and Tastemade Jan. 17 announced a first-look deal to produce unscripted lifestyle content.

As part of the partnership, Amazon MGM Studios and Tastemade plan to bring 15 new shows to Prime Video and Amazon Freevee audiences over the next few years.

“Dish It Out” will be the first unscripted series on the roster, hosted by TV personality, chef, and social media content creator Matilda “Tilly” Ramsay — the daughter of multi-Michelin-star chef Gordon Ramsay. In each episode, Tilly Ramsay will receive a mystery box of goods from various chefs and home cooks around the world, piecing together the items in each box to create a globally inspired dish. The series has received a 32-episode order and production will begin in 2024 in Tastemade’s London studios.

“We are so pleased to partner with Tastemade’s award-winning team to bring Tilly Ramsay’s fresh and fun approach to cooking to our Amazon customers,” Lauren Anderson, head of AVOD, unscripted, and targeted programming, Amazon MGM Studios, said in a statement. “Tilly’s charm, exuberance, and ability to create memorable food experiences has already delighted her millions of followers, and we look forward to introducing her to a new audience of food, cooking, and lifestyle enthusiasts.”

“We are thrilled to be partnering with a powerhouse like Amazon MGM Studios, enabling Tastemade to share compelling stories with their audience,” Larry Fitzgibbon, co-founder and CEO, Tastemade, said in a statement. “We are uniquely positioned to create premium lifestyle programming that inspires people to take real action, and Amazon is the perfect platform to bring that to life.”

Subscribe HERE to the FREE Media Play News Daily Newsletter!

All content will be produced by Tastemade Studios, helmed by Taye Shuayb, global head of studios and content development. Content will range from cooking competitions to travel shows and will be hosted by notable talent across the food and entertainment space. Amazon Freevee also offers a number of Tastemade free ad-supported streaming television (FAST) Channels, including “Tastemade,” “Tastemade Travel,” “Tastemade Home,” and “Tastemade en Español” on the free streaming service.

eMarketer: Amazon E-Commerce Prowess to Give Ad-Supported Prime Video Big Advantage

With Prime Video set to begin inserting advertising into its streaming content on Jan. 29 (unless subscribers pay a premium to avoid ads), Amazon’s ad-supported streaming video revenue will top more than $508 million in 2024, compared to about $187 million in 2023 from Amazon properties Freevee, Fire TV, and Twitch, among other sources, according to new data from eMarketer.

The lower-cost ad-supported streaming option will also get a boost considering Prime Video (71%) narrowly lagged Netflix (77%) as the primary go-to SVOD service by U.S. adults last August. The gap is projected to narrow in 2024 with 72.3% of SVOD viewers streaming Prime Video, while 76.7% watch Netflix.

 

Amazon accounts for 74.2% of all U.S. retail media ad spend, according to eMarketer’s November 2023 forecast. Almost 70% of U.S. adults pay for an Amazon Prime membership, according to an October 2023 eMarketer survey.

“With so much first-party shopper data and ad experience, Prime Video has the potential to target specific and effective ads, maximizing return on ad spend for advertisers,” Sara LeBow, research analyst with eMarketer, wrote in a blog post.

Prime Video is a latecomer to ad-supported SVOD. With all the major SVOD services now offering an ad-supported option (only Apple TV+ remains ad free), NBCUniversal’s Peacock platform has the highest penetration of ad-supported subscribers (78.8%), followed by Paramount+ (73.2%) and Hulu (68.1%). Disney+ (23.5%), Max (20.8%), and Netflix (7.5%) have the lowest penetration.

“This will help Prime to start with a high penetration of ad-supported viewers,” LeBow wrote.

Sony Celebrates Columbia Pictures’ 100th Anniversary With Disc, Digital Catalog Releases, Sales

In celebration of Columbia Pictures’ 100th anniversary, Sony Pictures Home Entertainment  will be presenting a variety of  catalog offerings throughout 2024, across the entire Sony Pictures Entertainment library of movies and TV shows.

January kicks off with both a physical disc sale at Amazon and  a “100 movies for $100” digital bundle.

The Amazon sale — featuring 4K Ultra HDs, Blu-rays and DVDs — begins on Jan. 10 and includes deals on major library titles such as Ghostbusters, Close Encounters of the Third Kind and Lawrence of Arabia.

On Jan. 16, in addition to an overall digital movie sale, there will be a “100 movies for $100” digital bundle available at participating digital retailers, featuring such titles as The Lady From Shanghai, Tootsie, 2012 and Mr. Smith Goes to Washington. Consumers can visit 100for100sale.com for more information.

The 100th anniversary celebration will continue throughout 2024 with more details to come.

Subscribe HERE to the FREE Media Play News Daily Newsletter!

 

MGM Studios, Prime Video Laying Off Hundreds of Employees

Amazon Jan. 10 began eliminating “several hundred” positions worldwide across its MGM Studios and Prime Video operations as part of ongoing internal restructuring.

In a staff memo from Mike Hopkins, SVP at Prime Video & Amazon MGM Studios, first reported by Variety, the longtime executive said the company had spent the past year analyzing “every aspect” of the business tasked with improving its ability to deliver “even more breakthrough movies, TV shows, and live sports” to consumers.

Amazon said it is downsizing investments in several undisclosed areas, while increasing spending on content and related product initiatives.

Subscribe HERE to the FREE Media Play News Daily Newsletter!

“As a result of these decisions, we will be eliminating several hundred roles across the Prime Video and Amazon MGM Studios organization,” Hopkins wrote in the memo.

Hopkins said affected staff in the Americas would be notified by this morning (Pacific time), while impacted staff in other regions would be notified by the end of the week.
“This is a difficult decision to make and one that my leadership team and I do not take lightly,” Hopkins wrote. “It is hard to say goodbye to talented Amazonians who’ve made meaningful contributions on behalf of our customers, team and business.”
Amazon is spending more than $1 billion a year exclusively distributing “Thursday Night Football” on Prime Video as part of a 11-year deal with the NFL. The ecommerce behemoth reportedly spent $16.6 billion on video and music content in 2022, which includes “The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power,” — reportedly the most-expensive TV show ever produced. Amazon acquired MGM Studios in 2021 for $8.5 billion in cash.

Prime Video’s ‘Thursday Night Football’ Sees 24% Uptick in Second-Season Viewership

Prime Video’s $11 billion foray into live NFL streaming is resonating with more viewers in its second exclusive season.

The weekly “Thursday Night Football” telecasts saw a 24% increase in viewers in 2023 at 11.86 million compared with 9.58 million in 2022, according to new Nielsen data. This current NFL season saw 13 weeks of double-digit streaming viewership increases, including among the coveted 18-34-year-old demo.

Indeed, “Thursday Night Football” is attracting streamers with a median age seven years younger (48.5) than on linear television. Fox Sports was the previous exclusive broadcast rights holder to “Thursday Night Football.”

The Nov. 30, 2023, game between the Seattle Seahawks and Dallas Cowboys attracted the largest Prime Video viewership at 15.3 million, breaking the season-opening 15.1 million viewer benchmark for the Minnesota Vikings vs. Philadelphia Eagles matchup.

The second season of “Thursday Night Football.” also included the inaugural “Black Friday Football” game the day after Thanksgiving featuring the Miami Dolphins’ 34-13 victory over the New York Jets.

Subscribe HERE to the FREE Media Play News Daily Newsletter!

“We’re still very much at the beginning, but [the] record growth [for ‘Thursday Night Football’] in our second season is beyond encouraging as we work to super serve fans and advertisers,” Jay Marine, VP, Prime Video, and global head of sports, said in a statement. “We are building ‘TNF’ on Prime into an incredibly valuable franchise, and our production and tech teams deserve a great deal of credit for the quality and innovation we have delivered to fans, and we are just getting started.”

Film Movement Plus Streaming Service Launches on Prime Video Channels

Film Movement’s streaming service, Film Movement Plus, which is celebrating its fifth anniversary, Dec. 15 became available to Prime Video customers via Prime Video Channels in the United States.  

The service is priced at $5.99 per month, with a seven-day free trial for eligible new subscribers. New titles will be added each week.

The Film Movement catalog features a curated collection of independent and world cinema, cult and arthouse classics, documentaries and North American exclusives.

Films available at launch on the Prime Video Channel include dozens of exclusives, such as Diamond Island, directed by Davy Chou (Return to Seoul); Holy Beasts with Geraldine Chaplin and Udo Kier; Mario Martone’s The Mayor of Rione Sanita; Hellhole, directed by Bas Devos (Here); Wayne Wang’s While the Women Were Sleeping; Claire Darling starring Catherine Deneuve; and the New York Times Critic’s Pick documentary Faith, the final film by Valentina Pedicini.

Critically lauded films from some of today’s most talented auteurs will be available as well, including A White White Day directed by Hlynur Pálmason (Godland); Koji Fukada’s A Girl Missing; Ciro Guerra’s The Wind Journeys; Diao Yinan’s The Wild Goose Lake; Peter Greenaway’s The Pillow Book; Stéphanie Chuat and Véronique Reymond’s My Little Sister; and Bruce LaBruce’s Saint-Narcisse. Award-winning documentaries include David Osit’s Mayor; Philippe Bellaiche’s and Rachel Leah Jones’ Advocate; and James Crump’s Antonio Lopez: Sex Fashion & Disco. Digitally-restored classics include Sergio Corbucci’s The Great Silence, Ang Lee’s theatrical debut Pushing Hands (available Dec. 15), Lee Tamahori’s Once Were Warriors, and Ming-liang Tsai’s Vive L’Amour.

Each month, Film Movement Plus will be updated with new exclusives and streaming premieres. Coming Dec. 22 is the exclusive premiere of The Inner Cage, a Venice competition title directed by Leonardo Di Costanzo and starring Toni Servillo (The Great Beauty), and on Dec. 29, Sonia Braga in the film that made her an international star, Dona Flor and Her Two Husbands, directed by Bruno Barreto. Also coming in December are Hirokazu Kore-eda’s After the Storm and The Third Murder; Naji Abu Nowar’s Academy-Award nominee Theeb; Takeshi Kitano’s Hana-Bi (Firesworks); Cathy Yan’s Dead Pigs; and Marleen Gorris’s Oscar winner Antonia’s Line.

Coming in January are Philipp Stölzl’s Chess Story, starring Oliver Masucci; Laura Wandel’s Oscar-shortlisted drama Playground; and exclusives including Asimina Proedrou’s Behind the Haystacks, Greece’s official submission for this year’s Best International Picture Academy Award, and Claudio Noce’s Italian drama Padrenostro, winner of a Best Actor award at the Venice Film Festival for Pierfrancesco Favino.

Subscribe HERE to the FREE Media Play News Daily Newsletter!

“Since 2002, Film Movement’s objective has been to acquire cinematic gems from around the world and share them with American audiences.  And, for the past five years, Film Movement Plus has given us a broad platform to serve cineastes with curated cinema wherever they may be,” Michael Rosenberg, president of Film Movement, said in a statement. “By launching our service on Prime Video via Prime Video Channels, we make it even easier for customers to enjoy our films and find the many titles that are only available on Film Movement Plus.”

Eddie Murphy Holiday Comedy ‘Candy Cane Lane’ No. 1 Movie Worldwide on Prime Video

In its first three days of release, Candy Cane Lane was the No. 1 movie worldwide on Prime Video, also becoming the most-watched Amazon MGM Studios-produced movie debut ever in the United States, according to the service.

The holiday comedy is among the top 10 worldwide film debuts ever on the service, according to Prime Video.

Additionally, according to tracking by Screen Engine/ASI, Candy Cane Lane debuted with the highest reported viewership among streaming movie releases for the weekend ending Dec. 3, Prime Video noted.

Candy Cane Lane is directed by Reginald Hudlin, written by Kelly Younger, produced by Brian Grazer, Eddie Murphy, Karen Lunder, Charisse Hewitt-Webster, and stars Eddie Murphy, Tracee Ellis Ross, and Jillian Bell, among others.

Murphy plays Chris Carver, a man on a mission to win his neighborhood’s annual Christmas home decoration contest. After Chris inadvertently makes a deal with a mischievous elf named Pepper (Jillian Bell) to better his chances of winning, she casts a magic spell that brings the 12 Days of Christmas to life — and wreaks havoc on the whole town.

“The sensational debut of Eddie Murphy’s first-ever Christmas movie, Candy Cane Lane, is a true demonstration of how joyful, family-oriented stories can touch the hearts of viewers around the world,” Courtenay Valenti, head of film, streaming and theatrical at Amazon MGM Studios, said in a statement. “We are so proud of our wonderful director Reginald Hudlin, along with the dynamic Eddie Murphy and Tracee Ellis Ross, our partners at Imagine Entertainment, and the rest of the all-star cast and team of creatives that brought this original and festive IP to life.”

Counting down to Candy Cane Lane’s Dec. 1 premiere on Prime Video, Amazon MGM Studios mounted activations such as the “12 Days of Candy Cane Lane,” which brought festive surprises and special moments to fans including Giving Tuesday’s Red Cross Blood Drive; a new song, “Miracle,” from Raphael Saadiq featuring Kelli-Leigh, available exclusively on Amazon Music; and an immersive Kringle’s Virtual Holiday Shop. Marketers also hosted a community pop-up event in Baldwin Hills, Calif., for families, organizations and business owners, presenting a $50,000.00 check to Destination Crenshaw. Additionally, “The Candy Cane Lane Traveling Truck Tour” has been traveling around the United States offering treats and free items on behalf of the film.

Amazon MGM Studios also collaborated with Grubhub with the contest “Christmas Delivered by Candy Cane Lane.” On Nov. 20, Grubhub customers in Atlanta, Chicago, Los Angeles and New York entered to win a holiday home transformation with holiday decorations donated by Balsam Hill and smart light products by Govee.

Subscribe HERE to the FREE Media Play News Daily Newsletter!

Additionally, the studio collaborated with Habitat for Humanity International. From Nov. 15 to Dec. 27, Prime Video is donating $25,000 to Habitat for Humanity International and $55,000 to Habitat for Humanity of Greater Los Angeles (Habitat LA), while Amazon employees are participating in build days across the United States. In Los Angeles, they decorated a newly built Habitat LA community and welcomed new homeowners with holiday gift baskets and 55-inch Omni QLED Series Fire TVs.

Additionally, pop-R&B singer and songwriter Chloe Bailey (known as Chlöe) released an exclusive Amazon Music Original track “Merry Christmas Baby,” her own version of Otis Redding’s famous Christmas hit, in conjunction with the film’s release. The track is featured in the opening credits of Candy Cane Lane and is available now to stream only on Amazon Music.