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.