Of the three streaming platforms that Amazon operates — Prime Video, IMDb TV and Twitch — IMDb TV is the least covered and least understood.
Amazon’s streaming strategy, like others in the space such as ViacomCBS’ PlutoTV and NBCU’s Peacock, has been to have separate free and paid tiers. Where the strategy differs is how IMDb TV doesn’t just take television reruns but is creating and making available high-quality content.
The recent announcement that Prime Video and IMDb TV will have exclusive access to Universal’s live-action movies from 2022 — once Peacock has them for four months first — was likely a surprise to many but not those familiar with Amazon’s plans for IMDb TV.
Those plans involve making IMDb TV the destination for free streaming. This is why Dick Wolf and Judge Judy are making originals for the service, and not for Prime Video, and why IMDb TV doesn’t have old seasons of Prime originals as its main hook.
The Universal deal also represents a new shot fired across the bows of the other free streaming services tht also announced original shows in the Newfronts. It will be interesting to see if this changes strategies at the likes of Tubi, Roku and Peacock Free going forward.
IMDb TV has slowly been adding features to position it as a service that can keep viewers watching for longer and thus be served ads (and more things to buy on Amazon), with high-quality shows and movies the latest in a line of innovations designed to make the free streamer stand out.
The service launched in January 2019 as Freedive as an AVOD-only service, rebranding in June 2019 as IMDb TV. Linear streaming channels came in summer 2020, and have expanded since to include channels from premium creators like AMC Networks and A&E Networks. Amazon has shown a strategic nimbleness here, pivoting where needed — i.e., the poor Freedive launch.
IMDb’s content expansion doesn’t stop with the Universal movies deal. Assuming Amazon is allowed to acquire MGM, that deal will provide rocket fuel for IMDb TV in the form of MGM’s vaunted reality TV production studio.
Whilst the majority of analysts completely overlooked this when the acquisition was announced, choosing instead of focus on MGM’s paltry movie studio output, the nous to which Amazon Studios will now have access will help create even more shows designed to keep viewers watching IMDb TV.
Research firm Magid found that IMDb TV accounted for 9% of all U.S. free streaming in early April, with IMDb TV since available on more platforms (including LG smart TVs and PlayStation 4 consoles). With the premium content that will soon be available on IMDb TV, the share should keep expanding both from existing users of other services and by attracting more free-streaming first-time viewers.