Amazon Channels Roku As It Plots Free Streaming Network

Amazon is planning a significant investment in free, ad-supported video content. 

The technology giant, whose Prime Video service is one of the most popular premium subscription offerings (alongside Hulu and Netflix), is now looking to offer a free, ad-supported streaming network to its Fire TV platform.

According to The Information, which first reported the news, the service will be called “Free Dive” and will include acquired library content. It isn’t clear whether it will include any exclusive content from Amazon’s Prime Video library or other exclusive content.

Amazon’s strategy mirrors Roku's, the market leader in connected TV devices. (Amazon’s Fire TV ecosystem isn’t far behind, per Nielsen.)



Last year, Roku launched The Roku Channel, an ad-supported free streaming network comprised largely of acquired library content. Since then, Roku has expanded The Roku Channel to other platforms and devices, seeking to build out its ad business.

A number of free streaming services, including Sony’s Crackle, Pluto TV, Xumo, and others, are trying to carve out niches in the free streaming video ecosystem. Crackle bets on exclusive content and Sony’s deep library, while Xumo is focused on creating linear, lean-back viewing experiences.

It isn’t yet clear what would set Amazon’s offering apart from the competition.

The company can, however, bet on its own massive scale and proven ability to drive consumers to video content. CBS CEO Les Moonves said on the company’s last quarterly earnings call that Amazon now drives more subscribers to CBS All Access than any other third-party partner through its Amazon Channels service.

A free streaming network would also be a fertile proving ground for Amazon’s still-nascent video advertising business. While the company sells advertising on “Thursday Night Football,” it does not sell them on Prime Video. A free streaming network is a chance for the company to expand in the space.

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