But Is It Really Worth It?
The Problem with Amazon Prime
We cover a number of the streaming services on this site. I would say, in general, each of them have their strengths, from HuluOriginally created as a joint streaming service between the major U.S. broadcast networks, Hulu has grown to be a solid alternative to the likes of Netflix and Amazon Prime, even as it learns harder on its collection of shows from Fox and FX since Disney purchased a majority stake in the service. being the reliable little streamer with access to some good, broadcast TV shows, to HBOThe oldest and longer-running cable subscription service, HBO provides entertainment in the force of licensed movies along with a huge slate of original programming, giving it the luster of the premiere cable service. and its depth of not only the HBO back catalog, but most of what Warner Bros has made as well, and even NetflixOriginally started as a disc-by-mail service, Netflix has grown to be one of the largest media companies in the world (and one of the most valued internet companies as well). With a constant slate of new internet streaming-based programming that updates all the time, Netflix has redefined what it means to watch TV and films (as well as how to do it). which has a few good shows (and a lot of junk). But then there's Amazon PrimeWhile Netflix might be the largest streaming seervice right now, other major contenders have come into the game. One of the biggest, and best funded, is Amazon Prime, the streaming-service add-on packing with free delivery and all kinds of other perks Amazon gives its members. And, with the backing of its corporate parent, this streaming service very well could become the market leader. and ever time I think about it I struggle to remember why I watch anything on the network.
I don't know about you but I really can't remember the last show on Amazon Prime Video that I actually enjoyed. Likely it was The Expanse, which wasn't even their show just one they rescued from Syfy which, okay, I appreciate the hustle there. There was Invincible which was a solid adaptation of Kirkman's comics. And I guess The Boys would make the list, but I tend to have a love/hate vibe for that show, leaning towards hate most of the time.
Outside of those shows, though, I don't have much I actually care about on the network. I know people raved about Paper Girls, but I struggled to get into it. The same goes for The Power, which didn't have enough momentum in its first episode to hook me. I did manage to push through a season of Carnival Row, but when the second season recently released I found all desire to watch that series was gone, even after I forced myself to consume two more episodes.
Of course, we can't ignore the biggest, blandest failure in the room: The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power, a show I still have yet to review because I just can't push my way through. there was a recent statistic saying that while millions of people loaded up the show to see the continuation of Middle-earthCreated by J.R.R Tolkein, Middle-earth is the setting for the author's big sagas, featuring the characters of hobbits, dwarves, elves, and men., only something like a third of them actually made it through. For a series that is going to cost over a Billion dollars for Amazon to produce, those are staggeringly bad retention numbers. On any other network those numbers would get the show canceled, but Amazon is pot committed due to the contact they signed with the Tolkien estate.
There are more shows we could discuss. Jack Ryan is the television equivalent of dad rock. It's comfort food for the patriotic American middle aged set. It doesn't challenge you at all, but assures you that the country you live in is the absolutely rockingest in the whole universe. Of course, that's exactly the way Tom Clancy wrote the character, so that's to be expected. But then you have all the cover-band versions of that same story: Reacher, Without Remorse, The Terminal List. These kinds of shows are Amazon's bread and butter.
Part of the issue is that Amazon is chasing the perfect, four-quadrant production. They will throw a lot at the wall to see what sticks, but only the shows that hit the widest demographics and bring in the most people get second seasons and beyond. That's why so much of their long-running fare fits into that "dad rock" genre, which their more inventive shows fail after a single season. That was the report from the creators of A League of Their Own. That shows is getting a truncated second season and then is being unceremoniously dumped despite having a loyal following in the female and LGBTQ+ demographics. It doesn't hit all four quadrants in focus groups, though, so it's shit-canned.
I'm sure that's the same reason why so many of the shows above feel so bland. If it's challenging, Amazon tries to dumb it down some to suit more people. Sand the edges off, hire less artsy people behind the scenes to make things more "middle American". Do what they can to get more people in instead of letting good programs breathe in their own way. Maybe they don't fuck around with every show, but there does seem to be a certain bland air that hangs over so many of their productions.
The shows they make that feel the best are the ones that have a strong artistic voice controlling them. That's shows like A League of Their Own, The Boys, Invincible, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel. I may not always like these specific shows, and I've even found all of them to be uneven from time to time, but they have their own voices and they feel more special than anything else Amazon produces.
Thing is that Amazon doesn't really have to care, one way or another. Sure, they're spending a ton of money on their streaming service when you compare them to their streaming rivals, but at the same time, Amazon Prime Video is a rounding error on the balance sheet of Amazon itself. They can afford to spend a Billion on a Tolkien show because they will make tens of Billions in that quarter from everything else Amazon does. Hell, the programming on Amazon Prime Video is probably covered by the sales and rentals of digital movies from Amazon. The content they produce just helps to keep you in their app a little longer so many you decide to buy or rent something else from them instead of, say, switching to Netflix. It's all about keeping you in the app.
That's what makes Amazon Prime Video a hard opponent to beat in the streaming wars. They may not have the audience of Netflix or Disney+Disney's answer in the streaming service game, Disney+ features the studio's (nearly) full back catalog, plus new movies and shows from the likes of the MCU and Star Wars. but as long as business daddy Amazon doesn't get bored and scrap the whole thing, they can keep doing whatever they want. So long as eyeballs wander in and look around regularly, it doesn't matter how good or bad any one show is to the service. They don't need to court fan-bases and develop cult followings to ensure people stay subscribing. Middle American, four-quadrant fare keeps people in the app, so that's all they need.
Hell, they don't even have to worry about keeping people subscribing because, as far as Amazon is concerned, Amazon Prime Video is just a bonus feature for Amazon Prime. Come for the free shipping, stay for the bonus movies and shows they decide to give you. The goal isn't to have the biggest or the best streaming service, just to keep the members locked in with one more reason to not drop their Amazon service. And since that's a yearly renewal, they don't even have to worry about month-to-month subscriptions.
Amazon Prime Video is in a weird place, one that likely makes every other streaming service envious. Who cares what happens? Who cares if the service is good or bad. So long as people stay locked in, Amazon Prime Video is doing just fine. I hate it, but it's working, apparently.