Amazon Prime Video used to be just another benefit to an Amazon Prime membership. In 2016, Amazon began directly challenging Netflix and Hulu by offering Prime Video as a stand-alone subscription.
In a hurry? We can and will dive into the details. But the bottom line is that for most cord-cutters, the only real question is whether you will sign up for Amazon Prime Video or get it through the full Amazon Prime.
Table Of Contents
There’s no doubt that most people who have Prime Video have it because they’re Prime members. But over 50 million American Prime Video subscribers (100 million worldwide) demonstrate that people like it simply as a streaming service.
One huge selling point is the simply colossal amount of content Amazon has amassed — a staggering estimated 24,000 movies and 2,100+ shows. Another is the over one hundred Prime Video Channels you can add on to your membership, some of them exclusive to Amazon.
Many show up for Amazon Studios’ critically acclaimed original productions such as The Boys, The Man in the High Castle, and Manchester by the Sea. And NFL fans are subscribing for the exclusive Thursday Night Football. Is it worth it? Let’s take a look.
Pros and Cons
|✔ Great original content||❌ Quantity over quality|
|✔ Enormous library||❌ Weak interface|
|✔ 30-day trial||❌ Unintended purchases|
- Original content: Emmy award-winning shows include The Marvelous Mrs Maisel, Fleabag, and A Very English Scandal.
- Huge library: With over 25,000 movies and shows. Nobody beats Prime Video on sheer quantity of titles.
- 30-day free trial: A generous amount of time to see if you like it.
- Quantity over quality: It’s a pretty universally-held opinion that Amazon’s content library, while bigger than other services, isn’t necessarily better.
- Sub-par interface: Prime Video’s UI is all over the place. It’s decent on Fire TV or stick, terrible over the web, and uneven in-between. There is no consistency across platforms. However, their Watch Party feature is arguably the best in the industry.
- Confusing listings: On all platforms, content that is included in Prime Video is mixed in with content you have to buy, rent, or subscribe to an additional service to access. It can be difficult to tell the difference before clicking on it. But Amazon’s support team is great at dealing with complaints.
Amazon Prime Overview
Amazon.com was already a popular one-stop e-shop when it launched Amazon Prime in 2005, offering unlimited, free 2-day shipping for a flat rate of $79/year. Amazon Prime currently costs $14.99/mo, or $139/yr after a thirty-day free trial.
There’s no contract, and no minimum period, though the monthly fee is more expensive (the yearly membership works out to less than $12/mo). Here is a list of some of the current major benefits of Amazon Prime membership:
- Prime Video: Obviously a biggie, but see the rest of the article. Available for $8.99/mo as a stand-alone, which also includes Prime Gaming.
- Prime Delivery*: Free one-day delivery on over 10 million items with no minimum purchase.
- Prime Music*: 2 million songs, thousands of stations and playlists; ad-free listening.
- Prime Reading*: Download up to ten titles at a time from a selection of over 2,500 books and magazines.
- Amazon First Reads: Download (and keep!) one editors’ pick ahead of the official release date. Non-Prime members can subscribe for $1.99/mo.
- Prime Photos: Unlimited cloud-based full resolution photo storage (5 GB for video). Non-Prime members are limited to 5 GB for photo and video combined, with upgrade plans available.
- Prime Gaming: Free games, DLC, and a Twitch channel subscription. Prime Gaming is included in a Prime Video subscription.
- Prime Early Access*: Get a half-hour head start to Amazon.com’s Lightning Deals
- Amazon Fresh*: Free grocery delivery on orders over $35 from Amazon or Whole Foods.
* Prime Membership exclusive
Amazon Prime Video Overview
Amazon started offering its video service (as Amazon Unbox) in 2006, but it wasn’t until 2011 that it would combine its video service and Prime program to offer Prime members unlimited access to thousands of videos.
Original content followed in 2013. Live sports was added in 2017. Prime Video, like Amazon Prime, has no contracts or commitments, and also has a thirty-day free trial, after which it’s $8.99/mo.
As mentioned, Amazon has a truly enormous library of content, though it tends to skew towards movies over TV. With so many to sift through, it can be hard to separate the wheat from the chaff, though there are numerous recommendation lists from everyone from TV Guide to The New York Times to at least point you in the right direction.
And there is a lot of chaff. Some celebrate the never-ending supply of unintentionally hilarious B-movies, but if you’re not in the mood for cheesy so-terrible-it’s-good flicks, it’s sometimes hard to find quality content (more on the other interface issues below).
Having said that, Amazon does have plenty of quality content. Below is a list of Amazon Original series and movies that have made multiple top-ten lists, garnered praise from critics, and in many cases been recognized with major nominations and awards.
Notable Original Series:
- The Boys
- The Expanse
- Good Omens
- Jack Ryan
- The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power
- The Man in the High Castle
- The Marvelous Mrs Maisel
- Tales from the Loop
- The Wheel of Time
- The Wilds
Notable Original Movies:
- The Big Sick
- Blow the Man Down
- Brittany Runs a Marathon
- The Handmaiden
- Honey Boy
- Late Night
- Manchester by the Sea
- The Map of Tiny Perfect Things
- One Child Nation
- One Night in Miami…
- The Report
- Sound of Metal
- The Tomorrow War
- Troop Zero
- The Vast of Night
- You Were Never Really Here
Amazon has also been expanding into live sportscasting since 2016. And starting this coming season, Prime Video will be the exclusive home of the NFL’s Thursday Night Football.
Amazon also collaborates directly with different leagues on documentaries that go in-depth on various sports and teams.
Performance and Experience
Prime Video is one of the few services that includes 4K streaming for no additional fees. If you want to stream 4K you need both a device capable of displaying 4K resolution as well as an internet connection fast enough to buffer smoothly. It also includes Dolby Atmos and Digital Plus 5.1 where available.
Amazon lets you create up to six user profiles on your account, and you can watch up to three titles at the same time. But you can’t stream the same title on more than two devices at once (one device at a time for Channels).
Amazon provides nearly universal support for streaming devices. But there are details to keep in mind.
- Fire TV
- Fire TV Stick
- Echo Spot and other Echo devices with a screen (Note: only supports SD and regular stereo sound; cannot display Prime Video ad-supported channels)
- Fire Tablet (Note: does not support 4K or Atmos)
- Fire Phone (Can only watch on-demand; also does not support 4K or Atmos)
- No Blu-Ray players support audio descriptions for visually disabled people.
- LG (Stereo sound only)
- Panasonic (Stereo sound only)
- Sony (Up to 5.1 Surround sound)
- Sony PlayStation 3 (Up to 5.1 Surround sound, no profile support)
- Sony PlayStation 4 (Up to 5.1 Surround sound)
- Sony PlayStation Pro (Up to 5.1 Surround sound)
- Sony PlayStation 5 (Up to 5.1 Surround sound)
- Microsoft Xbox Series X and S (Up to 5.1 Surround sound)
- Microsoft Xbox One X and S (Up to 5.1 Surround sound)
- Microsoft Xbox One (non-X or S) (Up to HD and 5.1 Surround)
- Microsoft Xbox 360 (No audio description, on-demand only, no profile support)
- iOS (Up to HD and 5.1 Surround)
- Windows (HD/stereo only)
- macOS (HD/stereo only)
- Chrome OS (SD/stereo only)
- Linux (SD/stereo only)
- Google Chromecast (Up to 5.1 Surround)
- Comcast X1 (Up to 5.1 Surround; no audio description or ad-supported channels; Paramount+, HBO, and Cinemax Channels not available)
- Cox Contour (No audio description; Paramount+, HBO, and Cinemax Channels not available)
- Dish Network (Up to 5.1 Surround; Paramount+, HBO, and Cinemax Channels not available)
- Nvidia Shield
- Roku (No audio descriptions)
- Prime Video VR for Oculus (Up to HD/stereo; no ad-supported channels or profile support)
- TiVo (4K on Series 6 only; up to 5.1 Surround; no audio descriptions; no live ads or ad-supported channels)
- Apple TV
- Xiaomi (Up to HD/5.1 Surround; no audio descriptions)
- Sony (No audio descriptions)
- Hisense (Up to 5.1 Surround; no audio descriptions)
- Philips (Up to 5.1 Surround)
- JVC (Up to 5.1 Surround; no ad support/ad-supported channels)
- TCL (Up to 5.1 Surround)
- Konka (Up to 5.1 Surround; no audio descriptions; no ad support/ad-supported channels)
- Skyworth (Up to 5.1 Surround; no audio descriptions; no ad support/ad-supported channels)
- Changhong (Up to 5.1 Surround; no ad support/ad-supported channels)
- Haier (Up to 5.1 Surround; no audio descriptions; no ad support/ad-supported channels)
We can’t sugarcoat this: the interface is pretty terrible. The search function is frustrating and the personalized recommendations are puzzling. It can even be difficult to find top shows that Amazon itself is heavily marketing.
Worse, seasons of TV shows are not listed together in search results; each season is listed as its own entry, and not even in order. Spin-offs and original shows are mixed together in a messy hodge-podge.
The interface is probably the least consistent across platforms of all the video streaming services. It looks and functions radically different depending on if you’re accessing it from your browser or the app, from your phone or your TV, on Mac or Windows, Roku or PlayStation.
If a show or movie isn’t included in your Prime Video subscription, you can almost always rent or buy it. That’s a double-edged sword, though. On the plus side, there are, as Amazon puts it, “other ways to watch,” whereas if Netflix doesn’t have a title, you need to switch apps (or find something else to watch).
However, if you can bring up a title on Netflix or Hulu, you don’t have to worry about whether it’s included in your subscription. But titles on Amazon often pop up with a price tag, or “Free with subscription to X” where X is a Prime Video Channel you would need to subscribe to. This can be frustrating, especially if you’re browsing with your kids, who aren’t always understanding about your entertainment purchasing decisions.
The overall structure sends the message that Amazon regards itself as an e-commerce site first and a streaming service second, with its ultimate goal being to assimilate you into the Amazon customer base. As long as this is the case, selling you more stuff is going to take priority over your user experience. If you can get past it, the content is worth it, but it is a constant source of annoyance.
Prime Video Channels
In 2015, Amazon added Streaming Partners to Prime Video, which eventually became Prime Video Channels. Similar to Roku Channels or Apple TV Channels, these are add-on channels or streaming services you can subscribe to through Amazon on a month-to-month basis, signing up and canceling whenever you want.
Most Prime Video channels are under $10/mo additional and have a free trial period. Some of them are on-demand, others provide one or more live channels, and many are a combination of the two.
For instance, Discovery+ is $4.99/mo after a 7-day free trial, and includes on-demand content from Discovery+ Originals, HGTV, ID, TLC, Travel Channel, Discovery Channel, Magnolia Network, Food Network, Oprah Winfrey Network, BBC Earth, Animal Planet, Science Channel, and A&E.
But you also can watch a variety of live channels featuring popular shows from the above channels, such as Fixer Upper Channel, 90 Day Fiance Channel, House Hunters Channel, Deadly Women Channel, and so forth.
You can also get access to a lot more live sports with Channels. Paramount+ has live championship soccer (and CBS coverage of basketball, baseball, and football), Showtime’s got boxing and MMA events, and the NBA, MLB, and WNBA are all available by subscription.
There’re also motorsports and outdoor/extreme sports like surfing, skateboarding, skiing, snowboarding, off-road biking, and less rough-and-tumble sports like golf and tennis.
There are many alternatives to Amazon Prime Video. These are the three most popular:
Netflix’s Basic service ($9.99/mo) is a dollar more than Amazon — and it only includes one screen and SD. Blech. An entire Prime membership for $14.99/mo is cheaper than a Netflix Standard ($15.49/mo), much less Premium ($19.99/mo), which is what you have to go for to get the 4K Amazon already includes.
On the other hand, Netflix has a lot more original productions and is pretty universally regarded as having the overall higher-quality library. And it has, hands down, the better interface, with one of the most consistent cross-platform experiences around.
Netflix may be the reigning king of original prestige productions, but Hulu has the bigger, better supply of licensed content (that’s movies and shows from sources other than its owner, Disney). This makes sense because Hulu basically began as a collaboration between NBC, ABC, and Fox to challenge Netflix.
Hulu’s ad-supported plan costs two dollars less than Prime Video. Its ad-free plan is similarly two dollars less than a full Prime membership. The two services don’t overlap a great deal and actually complement each other.
Disney+ (currently $7.99/mo or $79.99/yr) is cheaper than Amazon, Netflix, or Hulu, but is also widely considered to be more of an add-on service right now than a full-service streamer. They have by far the least content of any of the services (except Apple TV+, which only carries Apple TV+ Originals.)
But you don’t sign up for Disney+ for the size of their library; you sign up because it’s Disney. And Star Wars. And Marvel. If you don’t light up at those three names, take a pass on Disney+.
And these days, you don’t normally sign-up for Disney+ directly. You either get the Hulu Bundle that comes with Disney+ and ESPN+ ($13.99/mo) or Hulu + Live TV, which is the Hulu Bundle plus 85+ live TV channels including all your local stations.
Obviously, the biggest reason to get Amazon Prime Video is that you already have it because you’re an Amazon Prime member. Its pricing is well in line with the competition, even taking the other Prime benefits out of the equation.
The biggest reason to get Prime Video by itself is its original, exclusive content. If you want to check out all the buzz around Fleabag or The Marvelous Mrs Maisel is about, a Prime Video subscription is the only way to see them.
If 4K is a dealbreaker for you, Prime Video is one of the cheaper ways to take in a 4K movie. Amazon also allows you to download up to 25 titles at a time, which is something unavailable or requires an upgrade on many other services.
And if you’re a cinephile with a lot of time on your hands and you feel like you’ve watched everything on Netflix and Hulu, Amazon’s movie library is bigger than the other two combined.
But the proof is in the content and how much you actually watch it. With a full thirty-day trial, just bite the bullet and find out!
Is Amazon Prime Video worth it?
Amazon Prime Video is undoubtedly worth its cost ($8.99/mo — no yearly discount) if you are at all interested in its content. It’s an especially good deal for film fans. It has enough TV content to make most people happy. And it has some outstanding original films and shows.
A better question is, “Is Amazon Prime Video worth getting or should I go all the way and get the full Amazon Prime subscription?” At $139/yr, a Prime membership is $11.59/mo. That’s $2.60/mo more than the video-only subscription.
The message from Amazon is clear: why not sign up for the full Prime membership? Unless you literally never order anything from Amazon, the free shipping alone pays for the difference in a few orders.
Why did Amazon raise the price of prime?
On Feb 18th, 2022, Amazon raised the price of Prime from $119/yr to $139/yr. According to Amazon, the price increase was due to expanded perks and rising “wages and transportation costs.” In keeping with this, the price of Prime Video has remained the same, $8.99/mo. Regardless of the justification, both Prime and Prime Video remain good deals.