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IMDb TV Pushes Subscriptions to Amazon Prime Video, But the Service Has Its Own Niche

Comparisons between Prime Video and IMDb TV are inevitable, and the latter’s continued growth raises questions about Amazon’s strategy to differentiate the platforms.


Shutterstock / Gil C

IMDb TV has come a long way in the last few months. Well, that’s a given, since the thing only launched in January. But still! Since then, IMDb’s nascent streaming service has changed its name, cut deals with an array of major studios and pledged to add thousands of films and television shows to the platform in the coming months. Yesterday, IMDb TV, which launched as Freedive and rebranded itself in June, announced IMDb’s first scripted show, an animated series titled “You’re Not a Monster” that will star Kelsey Grammer, Patton Oswalt and a handful of other well-known talent.

Exciting stuff. But as IMDb TV continues to expand, one can’t help but ask: Why does this service exist?

That sounds harsh, but it’s a query IMDb will be working hard to answer as the service expands in the months and years ahead. IMDb is owned by Amazon, which already runs the popular and well-established Prime Video streaming service. Comparisons between Prime Video and IMDb TV are inevitable, and the latter’s continued growth raises questions about Amazon’s strategy to differentiate the platforms and ensure they complement, rather than impede, the other.

Perhaps the most obvious difference between IMDb TV and Amazon Prime—and all of the major streaming services, for that matter—is that IMDb TV is completely free. There are unskippable ads and you need an account to begin watching, but IMDb TV is still about as low a barrier to entry for legally streaming films and television shows as one could reasonably expect. Although IMDb TV is currently only available in the United States, the service is expected to arrive in Europe sometime later in the year.

IMDb TV’s content library isn’t going to cause Netflix or Hulu executives to start sweating, but the service does have a handful of popular films and television shows, including “La La Land,” “Duck Dynasty,” “Kitchen Nightmares,” and “Heroes.” There are worse things to get for free.

Don’t want the ads? No worries, the IMDb TV FAQ page helpfully notes that ad-free viewing is easily available via Prime Video, just a few clicks and a credit card swipe away. Unfortunately, IMDb TV titles can’t be downloaded for offline viewing. Thankfully, the FAQ also explains that you can also do that with a Prime Video subscription.

On one hand, this could all be construed as IMDb TV being little more than an entry-level streaming option at best, and a thinly veiled advertisement for Amazon at worst. The service’s press releases usually note that IMDb TV is available as a free channel on the Prime Video app, and they also promote the fact that the service has built-in compatibility with Amazon’s Fire TV devices.

But to its credit, IMDb TV has done more to differentiate itself from the other streamers besides marketing itself as a budget platform. “You’re Not a Monster” might be the service’s first venture into scripted programming, but IMDb TV is already home to a handful of original shows that seem like a perfect fit for the platform.

IMDb originals include industry-centric shows such as “Casting Calls,” which goes behind the scenes of some of the most famous acting roles in history, while “So Far” summarizes news and on-set stories from upcoming films and television shows.  Many of these exclusives are shorts, talk shows or documentaries as opposed to large “The Handmaid’s Tale” or “Stranger Things”-style productions, but audiences seem to enjoy these programs nonetheless. Of course, that’s coming from IMDb ratings and reviews, so take it with a grain of salt.

Regardless, IMDb is the definitive website for film buffs and television enthusiasts, thanks to its encyclopedic library of information about pretty much everything that has ever been shot on a camera. It makes sense for IMDb TV to lean into that audience instead of trying to challenge the upcoming Disney+ streaming service with an expensive “Star Wars” or Marvel-style project of their own.

More cynically, Amazon probably doesn’t want to put a high-budget project with mass appeal on a free platform when it could make it a Prime Video exclusive. That’s not to say that Amazon would seek to intentionally undermine its IMDb TV service—there’s plenty of ad revenue to be made and IMDb is a major brand with a reputation to uphold—but exclusive or widely popular content that could be a major subscription magnet is always going to make more sense on Prime Video.

As for content exclusivity, there’s probably nothing about “You’re Not a Monster” that makes it a particularly unique fit for IMDb TV, but that’s hardly a bad thing. Streaming video is an increasingly crowded and competitive market, and platform-exclusive content is one of the most important elements for any serious streaming service. It can’t hurt for IMDb TV to branch out and create original projects such as “You’re Not a Monster,” but don’t be surprised if those aforementioned industry-centered shows continue to form the backbone of its exclusive content.

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