It’s the first time Amazon has revealed a specific number for Prime. But Bezos stayed opaque on numbers for its video and music businesses. He wrote in the April 18 letter that “Prime Video continues to drive Prime member adoption and retention.” Amazon Music “continues to grow fast and now has tens of millions of paid customers,” he said. Amazon Music Unlimited, the on-demand, ad-free offering, expanded to more than 30 new countries in 2017, and membership has more than doubled over the past six months, according to Bezos.
Overall in 2017, Amazon shipped more than 5 billion items via Prime, its program that offers unlimited free two-day shipping on over 100 million different items in the U.S. along with other perks (including access to the original and licensed TV shows and movies on Prime Video). Prime costs $99 per year in the United States, where it first launched 13 years ago. The company last year expanded Prime to Mexico, Singapore, the Netherlands, and Luxembourg last year, in addition to the U.K., Ireland, Germany, Austria, India, Japan, Italy, Spain and France.
According to Bezos’s letter, more new members joined Prime in 2017 than in any previous year, both worldwide and in the U.S. Amazon didn’t break out the number of Prime customers by region.
With Amazon playing close to the vest, analysts have produced estimates for the size of the Prime base. Those have varied widely: Cowen & Co. put the number of U.S. Prime households at about 60 million as of the end of 2017, while research firm Consumer Intelligence Research Partners pegged U.S. Prime members at around 90 million as of last September.
Prime Video’s highlights last year included award-winning comedy “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel,” which won two Critics’ Choice Awards and two Golden Globes, and Oscar-nominated movie “The Big Sick,” Bezos wrote.
Amazon also expanded its slate of programming across the globe, with new seasons of “Bosch” and “Sneaky Pete” from the U.S., “The Grand Tour” from the U.K. — hosted by the former team from BBC’s “Top Gear” — and “You Are Wanted” from Germany.
Bezos also rattled up several upcoming Amazon Studios original series: Tom Clancy’s “Jack Ryan” starring John Krasinski; “King Lear,” starring Anthony Hopkins and Emma Thompson; “The Romanoffs,” executive produced by Matt Weiner; “Carnival Row” starring Orlando Bloom and Cara Delevingne; “Good Omens” starring Jon Hamm; and “Homecoming,” executive produced by Sam Esmail (“Mr. Robot”) and starring Julia Roberts in her first TV series.
“We acquired the global television rights for a multi-season production of ‘The Lord of the Rings,’ as well as ‘Cortés,’ a miniseries based on the epic saga of Hernán Cortés from executive producer Steven Spielberg, starring Javier Bardem, and we look forward to beginning work on those shows this year,” Bezos said in the letter.
In addition, Amazon expanded its Prime Channels offerings, adding CBS All Access in the U.S. and launching channels in the U.K. and Germany. Bezos also pointed to Prime Video’s streaming of NFL “Thursday Night Football” worldwide, which drew more than 18 million total viewers over 11 games.
Meanwhile, Bezos called out Amazon’s Prime Video Direct self-publishing program. Through that, Amazon obtained subscription VOD rights for more than 3,000 feature films and “committed over $18 million in royalties to independent filmmakers and other rights holders,” the CEO wrote.
Bezos has issued the annual letter to shareholders since 1997.