Amazon started the practice of deregistering Fire TVs and Fire TV Sticks, that they believed were registered to reseller accounts, back in October of last year. This has been happening periodically to customers who have around 10 or more Fire TV devices registered to the same Amazon account, but this week, it seems Amazon has gotten much more aggressive with logging out devices. I’ve been flooded with messages this week via Twitter, Facebook, Patreon, the comments on this site, and email from people who have spontaneously had their devices deregistered. Some of them have as little as 3 devices and others have been logged out twice this month alone.
I’ve reached out to Amazon for comment on this topic, but have not received a response, so I can only speculate that the reason Fire TVs and Fire TV Sticks are being deregistered is to fight resellers. There is a Fire TV black market, for Fire TV Sticks especially, that Amazon has been fighting for years. Individuals buy Fire TV devices, load them with piracy software, and resell them for a profit with the promise of free movies and TV shows.
In order for the resellers to load piracy software onto these devices, they must first sign into the device with an Amazon account. They usually use throwaway Amazon accounts, that were created explicitly for the setup process, and leave those Amazon accounts signed in so the buyers of the device can start using them immediately and without the concern of linking their legitimate Amazon account to illegal practices. The continued use of a throwaway Amazon account is the biggest problem for Amazon, more so than the use of the Fire TV device to consume pirated content.
Amazon sells Fire TVs and Fire TV Sticks at essentially what it costs to make them, meaning they don’t make any money on the sale of the hardware, and almost certainly lose money when you factor in development, distribution, and marketing costs. Amazon’s market strategy is to make their profit after the device is sold, through Prime memberships, movie and TV show purchases, banner ads in the interface, generic shopping, app purchases, and various other ways. That’s how Amazon can justify selling the Fire TV Stick at $39.99, when the voice remote it comes with costs $29.99 alone and its closest competitor, the Roku Stick, costs $10 more, yet is less powerful and doesn’t even include a voice remote.
If a customer buys a Fire TV device and never spends any additional money as a result of that purchase, Amazon literally loses money. That’s completely fine and Amazon expects it to happen often. For all the customers who don’t spend much or any money through their Fire TV, there are enough people who do to make up for it. The key for Amazon to keep the Fire TV line a viable business is to keep the ratio of [total money spent through Fire TVs] to [total money lost by selling Fire TVs] in the positive. The single biggest factor hurting that ratio right now is the reseller black market.
Amazon must, at the very least, keep the potential to earn money a possibility. That’s why they banned launcher replacement apps from use on the Fire TV. Those who permanently use throwaway Amazon accounts with their Fire TV are essentially cutting off all possibility for Amazon to recoup the money lost in selling the Fire TV device that’s being used. That’s why Amazon is deregistering devices they think may be using a reseller’s Amazon account. Their goal through the practice is for black market buyers to use their own legitimate Amazon account so the possibility to make a profit, or even just break even, remains open.
All of that is absolutely no excuse for how Amazon is haphazardly determining which accounts could be reseller accounts. The ones being most negatively affected by false-positive mass deregistrations are legitimate customers who have fully invested in the Fire TV ecosystem. An Amazon account with many Fire TVs registered to it is often a customer with devices on all of their TVs, who has likely upgraded those devices over the years as new Fire TV and Fire TV Stick models were released. That’s why they have so many devices registered, not because they are a reseller.
I’m all for the deregistration practice if it’s necessary to fight resellers and keep the Fire TV line alive, but if Amazon is solely using the number of Fire TV devices registered to the account as the determining indicator of a reseller account, which it seems like they are, they need to quit being lazy and do a better job. There are so many other factors at their disposal, like whether or not all devices under an account are being used from the same IP address, or if the account is a Prime member who actively streams Prime video, or if the account has ever made a purchase through the Fire TV, or if the account has a credit card associated with it. I could go on and on, but it seems like Amazon isn’t using any of that information. There’s no excuse for so many regular Fire TV owners to have their devices deregistered and especially no excuse for it to ever happen multiple times, yet alone in the same month.
If you’ve been hit by a mass deregistration wave and are fed up, or get fed up in the future, I hate to say it, but the best thing you can do is negatively review your Fire TV and/or Fire TV Stick on Amazon. We’ve seen in the past that negative reviews make Amazon take notice of issues and act to correct those issues.