Amazon now forbids Fire TV apps from directly launching content within other streaming apps

Amazon has changed its policy regarding how Fire TV apps interact with other apps. Specifically, Fire TV apps can, allegedly, no longer directly launch movies or TV shows within other Fire TV apps. The practice, known as deep-linking, is important to the convenience of streaming aggregator apps, like Plex, JustWatch, and Reelgood, as it allows users to jump from one app directly to content in another app. According to Plex vice-president of marketing Scott Hancock, who spoke with Jared Newman from TechHive, Amazon asked Plex to remove deep-linking from its app.

While Plex is far more than a streaming aggregator app, it did recently add a new Discovery section to the app which displays content from your other streaming services. Selecting a movie or TV show within Plex that was available in another streaming app used to directly launch that app for you and would usually take you directly to the content you were looking for. Now, Plex just displays a message, shown above, informing you that “linking directly to other apps is currently unavailable,” leaving you to manually open the app and find the content.

Reelgood and JustWatch, which are strictly streaming aggregator apps with the goal of helping you get to content within other streaming apps, currently continue to deep-link directly to content within other apps. If Plex’s VP is correct in his assumption that Amazon has changed its policy regarding deep-linking, you might find the convenience of Reelgood and JustWatch greatly diminished when the apps release their next update.

Apple and Google/Android devices continue to allow deep-linking to content within apps. Roku, on the other hand, has always disallowed the practice, which is probably why both Reelgood and JustWatch aren’t available on Roku devices at all. Amazon’s seemingly about-face on its policy toward deep-linking appears to be another attempt at keeping its users interacting with the core Fire TV home screen.

Ever since the first Fire TV was released in 2014, Amazon has had a long history of blocking any apps that make an attempt to bypass the Fire TV home screen. This is to be expected since the home screen is among the primary ways for Amazon to recoup the subsidized cost of Fire TV hardware. I suspect that Amazon discouraging deep-linking is another step towards ensuring Fire TV users continue to go through its own interface to get to content.

Now that Amazon sells the Alexa Voice Remote Pro with customizable buttons that can directly launch apps, it’s easier than ever to jump directly into an app and bypass Amazon’s entire Fire TV home screen. If that app were able to serve as a home screen-of-sorts on its own that could take you to the content you want within any app, as streaming aggregators do through deep-linking, then the app becomes a direct threat to Amazon’s Fire TV business. Hence, the new apparent policy that forbids deep-linking.

39 comments
  1. Adam says:

    Im dense.
    Will this kill Kodi’s ability to play trailers for local files through its YouTube plugin?

    • Pawdog says:

      Since Kodi is not on their Appstore that’s probably not a concern. This doesn’t sound like a firmware thing by Amazon but a requirement to stay on the store.

      • Alex says:

        Keep doing hacks for this apps to avoid amazing to control the world

        • Jonathan says:

          I wish Amazon would deep link their own apps. I subscribe to Paramount+ through Amazon but more often than not when I try to watch something through P+ it goes to the Paramount app and tells me I have no subscription. I have to search through the Amazon interface. It’s annoying.

  2. Ian King says:

    Does Apple TV permit deep linking? If so, maybe it’s time to switch from Fire TV to Apple TV.

    • BC says:

      All three are still available for download in the Apple TV App Store as of this writing. I’m not familiar with them, but this article gave me the incentive to check them out. I have both Fire TV and Apple TV on different TVs in my home. I was just thinking the Fire TV was the only one necessary since you can apparently watch Apple TV on Fire TV, but not Vice versa.

      • Ian King says:

        I don’t understand your comment. My understanding is that Amazon has apps that run on an Apple TV and those apps permit the Apple TV user to rent movies from Amazon (see https://www.lifewire.com/watch-amazon-prime-video-on-apple-tv-4047602)

        So, it seems you can use Amazon as a source of streaming video on an Apple TV and vice versa you can use Apple TV+ as a source for streaming video on an Amazon Fire TV device.

        • BC says:

          As I said, I’m not familiar with these. I hope I didn’t just confuse things. I was just commenting that Plex, Reelgood, and
          JustWatch were all available in the Apple TV App Store.

          That said, I would like to know what people feel like are the best and/or easiest devices to use to watch TV after you’ve unplugged from cable, AKA the pickpockets of television. I’m a novice at being unplugged. I’m not necessarily a novice user of data devices, but most of my experience is PC and Mac based. Thanks!

          • digitalMoZ says:

            Pretty much any streaming device works the same. If the apps you want are not installed on the device already then you use the App Store available on each streaming device and if you subscribe to any one of them you must enter in your user name and password for each service and then you have potential hundreds of thousands of programming options to watch at anytime you want. If you’re missing commercials and some classic TV then you can download Pluto TV and depending on which device and/or assistant you have there many also be an app installed already that has a variety of different programming. Amazon Fire TV has “live TV” which has almost 100 channels of shows, reruns, news, entertainment, etc. Vizio also has a bank of over 100 free internet TV channels installed on its smart TV’s. Depends on the manufacturer and the streaming device. Apple TV is an excellent choice if you want to expand the Apple Ecosystem but, I have all Apple devices like iPhones, iPads and Apple Watches but all my smart home devices are Smart Life Compatible (Alexa or Google Asdistant so I have multiple Fire TV Sticks and a Fire TV. Each remote has an Alexa button to give commands to as well as the multiple Excho Shows, Echos and Echo Dots I have throughout the house. It’s real convenient to press the Alexa button on a remote and say “Show me living room camera II” and have it show in full screen on the corresponding display/TV. I think Chromecast has the same functionality. And I know Apple TV does as well. BTW all streaming devices interact with phones and tablets with no problem there may just be limitations with some functionality or a work around to get your desired action executed

      • Johnny bravo says:

        This makes no sense because there are so many alternatives who cares about an Amazon firestick go get a smart box

    • Doug says:

      Never, never, NEVER!!! Maybe Google TV or YouTube TV, but anything other than Apple TV.

  3. RG Geiger says:

    That is just so sad. What is wrong with Amazon. I’ll still use my fire tv because it has the BEST integration with my antenna (using the Recast box), but I LOVE my goggle Chromecast with goggle tv because the up next row on the home screen shows what I’m watching on Netflix, hbo max, Hulu and Amazon prime and links directly to the shows. That’s the best.

  4. Jeff says:

    Just another way to keep you with there ads and promotions on there devices. Reconsider on possibly a different device all together. The Rocktek GT2 on Amazons website same price as the new Cube.

  5. Tj says:

    That’s right Amazon, drive as many users away as you can. Great stuff.

    • Jeff says:

      I am at the point of not recommending Amazon devices to customers and friends. I had high hopes for the new cube but it is now unplugged and sitting to side until things get fixed and updated. Everything seems to be taken away from the user that actually buys these devices. This device was pushed to the public for their beta testing. If you read this site Amazon or Reddit take note on the frustrations people are having.

  6. Steve says:

    Apple TV has prime video app, this post is referring to Fire TV hardware specifically. And no most people won’t switch to Apple tv, I have both and FireTV Cube is the go to device because just easier to use and more voice control over it, and connects with your home assistant. If Amazon keeps adding things to disrupt your viewing experience to try to sell their products, people might change their minds that would be about it.

  7. BS says:

    Does this only apply to Plex from the appstore? Would the linking still work if you sideloaded Plex?

  8. djcalligraphy says:

    There’s an easy workaround for this… Uninstall Plex and the other apps from your Fire TV, Download the ANDROID TV version of Plex (or others), and sideload them to your Fire TV device. You can download them from APKPure, APKMirror, or any other APK repo online.

  9. Fred Tamucci says:

    I am returning all of Amazon’s products that I recently purchased including firestick 4k max. Not worth what they give you. Will go back to my android box. Piece of crap

    • Jeff says:

      My cube 3 is not plugged in. Way too many issues with the device, had hoped for something better. Opted for the Rocktek G2 android box. Way much better than the cube in features and specs. Check it out on Amazon same price as the cube but better quality overall

  10. Mary Elliott says:

    Recently my fire tv was cutting off 5 to 10 minutes into program. I tried deleting apps but got frustrated as this took so much time. I then hit the RESTORE TO FACTORY SETTINGS. Since then my fire stick will not link up with the television. What do I do??

  11. Tima says:

    Well if amazon did that . I don’t need no use for Amazon anymore I’m sur it’s will lose alit customers

  12. Anonymous says:

    If you want to remove third-party aggregator apps, how about offering your own solution on the device we already have chosen as our MAIN UI INTERFACE?

    If this is being done by third-party apps and with the GOOGLE TV solution, what is the hold up? I do think that the streaming services are at fault as well, by not wanting to allow any access to users NEXT UP queues on their services. It is time that APPLE, AMAZON, GOOGLE and ROKU take a firmer stand with all the standalone services and make it a requirement for being on their streaming platforms that they allow aggregation of NEXT UP queues. You will still get redirected to their ‘precious’ standalone app for monetizing the user data. But, why as a streaming service would you not want me to have easier access to the content I am already engaged with on your service on the streaming platform UI that I have chosen? Seems like something that would benefit both the streaming hardware provider and the streaming service.

  13. letour_001 says:

    What I don’t get is why AMAZON isn’t spending more effort to deliver the NEXT UP / CONTINUE WATCHING feature that they are blocking from these third party apps on the Fire TV device? They should have enough leverage with the standalone streaming services to require more access to CONTINUE WATCHING queues for all installed apps for aggregation on the FIRE TV HOME PAGE.

    • ByGeorge says:

      The major hold up I assume is navigating privacy laws. In order to have all the “Next Up” queues from various services display, in theory that requires the smaller services to share your watch data with the aggregator.

      • letour_001 says:

        I would agree with that, but some of this is already being done. Google TV users report that NEXT UP items from various streaming services are presented on the Home Page. Even on the Fire TV device it knows what the last item was you were watching on Netflix. If you have Netflix on the app bar on the Home Page and highlight it, the app peeking feature will list the last item you were watching first. Scroll down to that item and it will display ‘Continue Watching’. Select the item and it will launch Netflix and resume at the place you stopped. So, it can and is being done in some small way now. Roku has a similar feature on their mobile app. It will keep track of recently watched items from Roku Channel, HBO Max, Paramount+, Netflix and Prime Video, which you can cast to a connected Roku device. But, you can’t do the same directly on a Roku device. I can only guess that all the standalone services are paranoid about losing control. But, for me I use some of these services less often and are more likely to cancel them because they won’t integrate with the streaming hardware UI.

  14. Theapptest says:

    How do I download fire os app to google tv, not android os app to fire os ?

  15. oasis_001 says:

    I would be happy if they used the ‘app peeking’ feature on the FIRE TV UI to show your CONTINUE WATCHING list from the respective streaming service in place of the current POPULAR MOVIES AND TV list. Netflix kinda does this by showing the last content viewed on the service as the first item in the NETFLIX RECOMMENDS labeled list. It would take participation from both Amazon and the standalone streaming services, but would be a welcome improvement for both Amazon and the streaming services, in my opinion. They could make it an OPT IN / OUT feature, so you can control what you wish to share.

  16. George Kaplan says:

    AppleTV essentially does what JustWatch does, which is keep track of the shows you’re following on the different streaming apps linked in your ATV and inform you on your main screen when a new episode of that show is available to view. So if you’re following the new season of Real Housewives of Des Moines on Peacock, the current Marvel series on Disney+, and some house-flipping series on HGTV/Discovery+, your ATV TL will have direct links to these new episodes when they drop on that specific app. As with Amazon/Alexa and Google/Android TV devices, voice requests to search for a certain movie or show can be generated as well.

    The difference is Apple isn’t taking a fee from the app linked, and it isn’t selling the data on what your viewing habits are. This is why Amazon is blocking these deep link apps, because it cuts Amazon out of collecting the data on your viewing habits it needs to sell to make money. That likewise is why the ATV is not given away, the way all things Amazon/Alexa and Google are—Amazon and Google make their income on the back end, selling the data you create as you use the “free” product. Apple takes its margin up front with the item itself.

    • Ian King says:

      Thanks. You’re answer is extremely helpful. Unless Amazon reverses its policy, I imagine many will switch to Apple TV. I probably will.

  17. Joe says:

    After being a Fire TV user since the first stick, I finally ditched our Fire TV 2 for good last month, when my wife got a Chromecast 4K for Christmas from her work. Turns out it works so much better for us. We have it installed on a TCL Roku TV, that we use mostly as a dumb TV, due to the lame restrictions of the Roku system over installing third party apps or accessing network shares.

  18. letour_001 says:

    FYI. ROKU has begun to support the CONTINUE WATCHING feature for select streaming services from the Home Page that was announced with the update to version 11.5 of the Roku OS. In the WHAT TO WATCH menu on the Roku Home Page you can now get CONTINUE WATCHING support for content from Netflix, HBO Max, Paramount+, Prime Video and the Roku Channel.

    AMAZON / FIRE TV needs to do the same, particularly if they are going to block third party apps from direct linking. If they don’t, the FIRE TV UI is going to get a lot less use and sponsor supported revenue from this household.

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