By all accounts, Apple has tread a rocky road in its attempts to fashion a live TV streaming service à la Dish Network’s Sling TV. As Apple stumbles, however, Amazon appears to be taking the lead. The company is in the midst of talks with some big players in network television, including AMC, and ESPN. As reported by Motley Fool, the negotiations were confirmed by both networks in their respective fourth quarter earnings calls.
Amazon has been rumored to be working on its plans to take on live TV streamers like Sling TV and (to a lesser extent) Sony’s Playstation Vue since at least October of 2015, and there have been hints along the way that the e-commerce juggernaut has plans far beyond its Prime Instant Video offering.
The company has been making big plays in the streaming world of late, including the addition of stand-alone subscriptions to the streaming-only version of premium networks like Showtime and Starz at a reduced price for Prime members. Adding access to AMC and ESPN would give potential cord-cutters serious cause to consider Amazon as a more central component of their streaming arsenal, adding event series like AMC’s The Walking Dead and Better Call Saul, as well as one of the last trump cards left for cable and satellite to cling to: live sports.
While Apple has struggled mightily in its attempts to forge similar partnerships for its own service, Amazon has a leg up in negotiating thanks, in part, to years of experience making deals with networks to license past seasons of popular series from AMC, HBO, and others for Prime Instant Video. It may also help that Amazon isn’t hung up on carrying local affiliate stations for the big four broadcast networks (Fox, NBC, ABC, and CBS) the way Apple is.
As a more focused streaming solution that would offer premium networks as well as coveted live programming from AMC, ESPN and others, Amazon’s new service might stand on its own just fine, allowing cord-cutters to find their network programming from other sources, like Hulu, and/or a digital antenna.
As we’ve seen in the past, getting a seat at the table with major networks can make all the difference for those looking to blaze a trail in the burgeoning world of streaming TV, which is one of the reasons Dish’s Sling TV has been so successful. And though Amazon has had its hands full competing with Netflix when it comes to creating its own original series, as well as trying to compete with the sheer volume of Netflix’ cavernous library of past series and feature films, the streamer appears to be forging its own identity as a one-stop shop for Netflix-style streaming, peppered with premium networks offerings and soon, perhaps, live TV.
Of course, Amazon’s success or failure might well depend on the price of its service. Sling TV’s biggest draw has been its enticingly cheap price point of only $20 per month for about 20 channels in its Best of Live TV package, which includes ESPN, A&E, CNN, and many others. The service also offers an enticing selection of add-on bundle channels at $5 per package.
Up to now, Amazon has had the luxury of buoying its video streaming service with the draw of everything else that comes with a $99/year Prime subscription, including free 2-day shipping, streaming music, cloud photo storage, free book lending, and much more. Will users pony up even more dough for the chance at AMC and ESPN, among other possible live TV choices? Time will tell. For now, Amazon is stirring up the streaming world, and everyone from Sling TV and Netflix, to Comcast and Verizon, ought to take notice.