Amazon’s free TV streaming service is coming to cell phones, but it’s still an imperfect solution

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When Netflix launched as a streaming service in 2007, we began to see a brighter future for television. In the years that followed – as a handful of other platforms emerged – cutting the cable became commonplace as people flocked to these cost-saving solutions that offered must-see hits that you wouldn’t find in cables.

Now broken content libraries that charge substantial sums every month have taken us back to the dark days of television when those desperate to watch it all have to pay numerous subscriptions every month. But is there an alternative?

With the launch of the IMDb TV app on iOS and Android – at least in the US – a service that gets its content library from Amazon Prime and Paramount Plus, there finally seems to be a way out for the budget viewer. But unfortunately, IMDb TV’s free, ad-supported content may not be the hero we need – and maybe never will.

For one, Amazon’s own TV platform IMDb is only available in the US, so the rest of the world is caught in the clutches of paid services – apart from a few exceptions such as the Roku Channel or Samsung TV Plus. Second, the selection of older movies and series is almost all available elsewhere, which means that if you’ve only subscribed to a few paid services, you can probably watch most of them ad-free on these.

Additionally, while IMDb TV has a range of exclusive content, none of it has managed to grab mainstream attention like The Boys or Stranger Things. That combination of missing third-party and first-party hits makes a perfect storm that means you probably haven’t heard of IMDb-TV before this week.

Unfortunately, we would be surprised even with further offers from Paramount Plus if IMDb TV catches up with its competitors. That’s because the ad-supported ad, disappointingly, can’t keep up with what subscriptions can achieve in terms of revenue and quality.

Why do ads stop working?

Back when there were few channels to fly over, advertising could attract the attention of broad sections of the population. With maybe just a few other channels to watch, where else can you look?

Now, with a wide variety of distractions available to us, the audience is spread across a number of different channels and services. This means the same ads won’t reach as many people, which means companies aren’t as motivated to pay for them.

In the meantime, our expectations for shows have increased. With shows like Game of Thrones and The Mandalorian using technology and effects that we would see in blockbuster films, the bar has been raised and series must either match or exceed what came before to stand a chance to stand out from the crowd. This means that the budgets also have to grow, but they can only be supported if the money is there.

Because of this, the best shows are now often seen on paid streaming platforms or cable TV, where you have to pay extra to view the content. This monthly or yearly subscription gives developers the means to take advantage of huge crews and amazing special effects that ad-supported options can’t compete with.

Hopefully IMDb TV will continue to try its ad-supported endeavor as in search of a more budget friendly television we would love to get our hats off and see how it and other platforms do well. But probably the best we’ll see is the ad-supported tiers of Hulu and HBO Max, which offer a smaller selection of titles with ads at a cheaper monthly cost. We just have to see what the future holds.


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