Amazon’s new add-on TV subscription service gives Amazon Prime members the option to easily expand their streaming video library. TV shows and movies that used to only be available to buy, rent, or through third-party apps, can now be unlocked and streamed just like any other Prime video content. While all the subscription content from the 30 bundles introduced today can be accessed through the Fire TV immediatly, we won’t see this new add-on service integrated into the Fire TV in a fully featured way until early next year. Here’s a look at what it’s like to consume add-on subscription content through the Fire TV today.
Apart from a banner that occasionally appears on the home screen, the Fire TV interface shows no indication of the new add-on subscription service’s availability. A software update for all Fire TV devices will arrive early next year that will add true integration of this new service. Details of the software update are scarce, but I’ve been told by my sources at Amazon that customers will be able to browse content specific to their subscriptions, as well as subscribe to bundles directly through the Fire TV interface.
Clicking the banner ad for the add-on service instructs Fire TV users to sign up for subscriptions on Amazon’s website and then sync the Fire TV’s account information through the settings area so that subscribed content becomes accessible through the Fire TV.
Some of the content included with certain subscriptions, like the Smithsonian Earth shows, was previously not available through Amazon Video and is currently only available by subscribing. Bringing up this content on the Fire TV, without having first subscribed, shows an odd “Episode Unavailable” message with no indication as to how one would gain access to the video. This is just an artifact of making subscribed content available to Fire TV owners without requiring a software update. This will surely be addressed once the subscription service is fully integrated into the Fire TV OS.
Once you subscribe to an add-on bundle, you will be able to watch all the included content on the Fire TV. The best way to find the content is to search for shows or movies individually. Bringing up a TV show or movie that is included in your subscription will simply display the content with a “Watch Now” button instead of the usual assortment of buying/renting option buttons. Note that the “Watch Now with SHOWTIME 30-Day Free Trial” button in the above image is referring to Showtime’s app and not the new Showtime subscription option. Selecting that button opens the Showtime app if it’s installed, or prompts you to install it if it is not installed, just as it always has.
Essentially, the Fire TV treats subscribed content the same way it treats purchased content. This is how Amazon was able to make the service available to Fire TV owners without having to wait for a software update. The result is a bit odd at times, like seeing the “YOU OWN THIS VIDEO” banner for movies you have access to through a subscription, but the content plays fine, which is all that matters.
I’m not sure if this part of the Fire TV home screen was always there and I just missed it, or if it was added more recently, but if you scroll down the Fire TV home screen, you’ll find a dedicated row for your add-on subscriptions which highlights some of the top content available through the subscription. Big thanks to vulcan195 for pointing this out in the comments.
Good info. I played with it a little as well.
I subscribed to Acorn TV and here is what I found. Some of the following observations were already flagged by the Elias.
– once subscribed, there is no indication on Fire TV … No icon for Acorn TV.
– if you search for Acorn TV, it pulls up a ton of shows … of which several say ‘Watch Now with Hulu Plus’ (I have Hulu).
– if you pull up a series, say, Prime Suspect … some Seasons say ‘Watch with Hulu’ and some say ‘Watch Now’ and the rest are not free. So it’s a little confusing to figure out which seasons are available with the subscription. One way to get around that is to log in via a PC or mobile browser and add specific Seasons (these are available under Acorn TV) to Watchlist.
– Acorn TV episodes play just like regular Amazon shows with skip back/fwd by 10s buttons working the same way.
– Acorn TV has a lot of shows that are in SD. I am picky about video and avoid SD streams. Unfortunately, Amazon does not make it easy. I wish they had a HD flag (like the x-ray flag), so we can save a few clicks.
– HD video quality is very good.
– Subtitles are not available for most shows.
Added Smithsonian Earth hoping it would play in 4K (like it does on Roku 4 since the subscription rate is same as for Roku. No such luck – basically, for same cost you are getting 4K on Roku.
I look forward to them cleaning it up a bit.
Also, when the heck will Amazon make Prime on the FTV work as well on the Roku? Instead of one long, continuous row? And how about allowing up to reorder the list? Seems like “streaming channel app 101”, yet years later still nothing.
Interestingly, the Amazon App on my Samsung TV now has an updated interface. I have my TV configured for manual updates and I have not seen the tiny blue arrow on the app icon to indicate that an update is available. So, it possible the UI is pushed from Amazon servers when the app is launched. In any case, it now has a layout that is very similar to the Fire TV.
What’s more interesting is that it has new rows for each subscribed channel listing all the shows and movies available on it.
It also has a new row to allow you to subscribe to new channels.
All this without any app or firmware update (both set to manual on TV).
Here is a screen shot –
So naturally this begs the question why the Fire TV cannot offer the same updated UI.
Well, that would be because the FireTV app is a native android app and the Samsung TV app is probably an HTML5 app inside a hidden browser. Netflix has been doing that.
Local app vs cloud app.
You beat me by a minute ;-)
That’s really interesting. Thanks for posting the image! To try an answer your question, that samsung app is likely entirely HTML5 based. You’re essentially looking at a website when using that app, so its trivial for Amazon to instantly change things without having to update the app. Some Fire TV apps, like the YouTube app, work the same way. The Fire TV interface, however, do not work this way. The reason is, you get a snappier user experience with native apps, like the Fire TV home screen, than with HTML5 “web” apps, like with the YouTube app.
Ok – so early this morning I took at peek at the Fire TV UI – and what do you know … under the Home Tab – if you scroll down you will see new dedicated rows for all the channels you subscribed to … very much like the Samsung TV app.
So if you subscribe to Showtime on Amazon can you then authenticate and use the standalone Showtime app without having to go through the Amazon video each time?
No. The two services are separate.
Does the Showtime add-on to prime video content stream in Dolby 5.1? The Showtime Anytime app content only streams in Stereo which is very annoying. And BTW that is not AFTV limitation. The Showtime Anytime App streams in stereo on all platforms that I have tried. If the prime ad-on for Showtime streams in 5.1 then that is a huge benefit.
Some Showtime seasons that are carried by Amazon Pay-Per-View service are reportedly DD 5.1 but the same shows when watched via the Showtime Anytime App are not in DD 5.1. e.g. Latest episodes of Homeland