Amazon Prime Video is coming to Comcast’s cable boxes

Comcast and Amazon today announced a new partnership that will see Amazon’s Prime Video service integrated into Comcast’s Xfinity TV set-top boxes. This is the first time that Prime Video content would be added to a cable operator’s platform in the U.S.. It’s also a particularly interesting choice on Comcast’s part,  given that Amazon is directly […]

Comcast and Amazon today announced a new partnership that will see Amazon’s Prime Video service integrated into Comcast’s Xfinity TV set-top boxes. This is the first time that Prime Video content would be added to a cable operator’s platform in the U.S.. It’s also a particularly interesting choice on Comcast’s part,  given that Amazon is directly competing with pay TV providers through its Prime Video Channels a la carte TV subscriptions. And these will be available to Comcast’s customers via the Xfinity X1 set-top box as a result of this deal.

Today, Amazon offers over 160 premium Prime Video channels, including HBO, Showtime, Starz, Cinemax and others that have been previously sold as add-ons to cable TV subscriptions. Being able to access to these channels over-the-top – without a traditional TV subscription – is one of several factors that have convinced some consumers to cut the cord with cable TV entirely.

In other words, Comcast is really embracing the enemy here.

Of course, Prime Video Channels aren’t all that Prime Video offers. Members can also stream from Amazon’s library of TV shows and movies that come with a Prime subscription, as well as watch Amazon’s original programming, including shows like “Goliath,” “Sneaky Pete,” “Mozart in the Jungle,” “Man in the High Castle,” “Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan,” “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel,” and soon, the recently rescued “The Expanse,” among others.

Plus, Prime Video features live events at times, and offers series and movies for rent or purchase.

“Amazon Prime Video’s growing list of originals, movies, shows, documentaries, and kids’ programming will be an excellent complement to the overall X1 viewing experience,” said Dana Strong, Comcast’s President of Consumer Services, in a statement. “We want to give customers easy access to all their favorite content in one place. X1 continues to be a platform that can curate live TV, On Demand movies and shows, and streaming internet video and music titles into one, easy-to-use, seamless experience.”

This isn’t the first streaming service Comcast has worked with. The company has been offering access to Netflix through its X1 interface since 2016, and this April expanded its relationship with Netflix by bundling it into Comcast subscriptions. It also provides access to Google’s YouTube.

Despite Comcast’s willingness to work with the very services that are causing cable TV companies to lose customers, some reports claim these moves are akin to shoving a finger in the hole of a dam – the flood (of cord cutters, that is) is still coming. In fact eMarketer recently noted that the number of U.S. cord cutters will reach 33 million this year, which is faster than expected.

And it specifically said that partnerships between traditional TV providers and over-the-top services – like the one between Comcast and Netflix – hasn’t seemed to have had any impact on the pace of cord cutting.

“These partnerships are still in the early stages, so we don’t foresee them having a significant impact reducing churn this year,” said eMarketer senior forecasting analyst Christopher Bendtsen, at the time of the July report. “With more pay TV and [over-the-top] partnerships expected in the future, combined with other strategies, providers could eventually slow—but not stop—the losses,” he noted.

Comcast didn’t announce an exact launch date for the Prime Video integration, only saying that it would be available to X1 customers “later this year.”

Amazon is planning to give Prime Video a big makeover

Could user profiles and better personalization features be coming to Amazon’s Prime Video app at long last? The company’s new Amazon Studios head Jennifer Salke just teased that a major upgrade to Amazon’s streaming video app is in the works – and she already has it running on a phone in her office, she said. The […]

Could user profiles and better personalization features be coming to Amazon’s Prime Video app at long last? The company’s new Amazon Studios head Jennifer Salke just teased that a major upgrade to Amazon’s streaming video app is in the works – and she already has it running on a phone in her office, she said.

The exec was speaking at the Television Critics Association’s summer press tour in L.A., according to reports from AdWeek [paywall], TheWrap, and Deadline, when she mentioned the app’s big makeover.

And while Salke’s statements were light on key details – like when such an effort would reach end users, for example, or what changes, exactly, would be in store, there’s plenty of room to speculate on what Prime Video’s app today lacks.

For starters, unlike competitors such as Netflix and Hulu, Prime Video’s app doesn’t focus on making personalized recommendations about what to watch next.

Instead, the interface features a number of content groupings of shows or movies that are “included with Prime.” These are organized by category and type – like “Comedy Movies” or “Recently Added TV,” for example. It also showcases content that’s top rated, popular, or trending, along with some of its own editorial recommendations, like a section for Amazon’s “Original Movies” or its “Exclusive TV.”

A row may be dedicated to suggestions things to watch next based on viewing history, but it’s easily overlooked. Overall, the interface has always felt more focused on pushing Prime content in a variety of ways, rather than helping you discover new things you’ll actually like.

What makes this worse is that Amazon doesn’t offer user profiles, where household members could each have their own watchlist and set of recommendations – features that are standard on rival streaming apps today, including Hulu, Netflix, and even newcomers like YouTube TV.

And though Amazon does offer parental controls to lock down viewing, it doesn’t allow parents and kids to keep separate profiles where adult content is actually hidden from children.

These would all be obvious areas of improvement for a new Amazon Prime Video app, along with a better mechanism for discovering Prime Video’s optional add-on subscriptions, known as Prime Video Channels. Amazon today lets users build their own a la carte TV service by selecting premium channels like HBO, Showtime, Starz, CBS All Access, and more. But the Prime Video app itself doesn’t make channel suggestions in any sort of personal way – it simply offers an interface where you can browse through all of them.

But Amazon’s Prime Video Channels are rapidly becoming a driving force for over-the-top viewing, accounting for 55 percent of all direct-to-consumer video subscriptions. Amazon could easily revamp this feature to make it an even better selling point for Prime Video app users.

And of course, Amazon could still do a better job of highlighting its own originals – especially as it now has Emmy award winners and new nominees to promote – but in a way that feels more in tune with the viewers’ interests.

The company has at least publicly acknowledged that profiles are something it knows users want. In fact, it has even responded to incoming tweets with comments that explain how profiles aren’t available “at this time,” or “yet,” or say that’s a “good suggestion” when people offer feedback.

As for Salke’s statements, the most she offered is that the new Prime Video interface is “much more intuitive,” which hints towards improved navigation and how she finds it be “sort of seamless the way they’ve actually…” well, something – she cut herself off from that last reveal, by saying “I don’t know if I should give it away. It’s cool!”

Uh-huh. Good one.

She does say that the team wanted to develop the best UI (user interface) to line up with Amazon’s investment – meaning, apparently, the app should better highlight Amazon’s ~$4+ billion spent on original programming this year.

She also mentioned some of its upcoming high-profile series, like the sci-fi fan favorite “The Expanse,” which Amazon rescued from Syfy’s cancellation; the new “Lord of the Rings” project; and the Julia Roberts thriller “Homecoming,” directed by “Mr. Robot’s” Sam Esmail. Plus, she referenced three new series, including “The Expatriates,” from Nicole Kidman’s production company; Lena Waithe’s exec-produced horror series “Them;” and the sci-fi romantic comedy from “The Office’s” Greg Daniels, called “Upload.”