Amazon Launches New Centralised Hub for FAST Content

Tim Cross 22 August, 2023 

Amazon has announced the launch of its new Fire TV Channels app in the US, advancing its investment in free ad-supported streaming TV (FAST) by centralising FAST channels in one place. The new app essentially acts as the electronic programming guide (EPG) for the FAST content it hosts, giving it significant power over discovery and promotion of FAST content.

The tech giant launched Fire TV Channels at its NewFronts presentation earlier this year, adding a large number of FAST providers to its service. Previously these were grouped into themed categories which could be found in the top level Fire TV interface, under categories such as ‘sports highlights’ and ‘food & cooking’. With the new update, all of these channels are centralised in one app, positioning all this content side by side, more akin to a traditional linear TV environment.

The update has also seen Amazon sign up several new content partners for Fire TV Channels, including Variety, Rolling Stone, The Hollywood Reporter, GameSpot, Looper, and Funny or Die.

The Amazon EPG

Amazon’s take on the FAST EPG looks quite different from those of its competitors.

Content is organised by category via a sidebar, with some content also displayed on a home page (in the version seen by VideoWeek, live news channels had top positioning on the home page, followed by entertainment news on-demand videos).

Each content category within the sidebar has subcategories which divide up the content further, as well as a ‘featured’ tab. The ‘Sports’ category for example is divided up into ‘News & Talk’, ‘Baseball’, ‘Football’, ‘Basketball’, and ‘More Sports’.

This in itself isn’t that uncommon for a FAST aggregator. But what’s more unusual is that Amazon doesn’t seem to be giving live channels much priority within the app. Short on-demand clips feature heavily within the interface, and while live channels are given prominence in some sections (for example news), in others users have to scroll down past a selection of on-demand videos before they see any live channels.

Live channels (in the interface seen by VideoWeek at least) just display the channel title in the Fire TV Channels interface, rather than showing what is currently airing. This means users have to click in and out of each channel to see what’s currently playing.

A divided strategy?

In the fragmented FAST space, the companies which host FAST channels are jostling for position to become audiences’ go-to destination for FAST content. Google for example earlier this year launched a new FAST interface, uniting FAST channels with any paid linear channels a user is subscribed to within one interface.

The prize here is significant. As more and more TV content becomes internet delivered, these FAST hosts may end up essentially taking the role of the telco in distributing TV channels. And their ownership of the EPG gives them power to promote other channels (extracting fees for doing so), play a role in ad sales, and push their own content.

But with Fire TV Channels, Amazon doesn’t appear to be trying to recreate the traditional TV experience. The lack of prioritisation of linear content, and the need to click in and out of channels to see what is currently playing, suggests that this isn’t really Amazon’s aim.

And Amazon doesn’t look to be pushing its own content particularly hard. Some Amazon branding does appear – within the entertainment section for example, movie trailers hosted by Amazon-owned IMDb featured prominently. But Amazon is keeping Freevee, its other hub for free content (including Amazon Originals) which also runs FAST channels, completely separate.

This won’t necessarily remain the case. This launch opens up the opportunity for Amazon to merge this bank of FAST channels and on-demand content with Freevee, creating one centralised hub for free content on Amazon devices.

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About the Author:

Tim Cross is Assistant Editor at VideoWeek.
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