As Amazon recruits video companies to distribute content on its platform — and make money from day one — some companies are beginning to use Amazon Prime Video to premiere new programming.
Earlier this week, Funny Or Die premiered a new eight-episode, short-form comedy series called “The Real Stephen Blatt” on Prime Video. Earlier in the month, comedy studio Jash debuted a new season of “Norm Macdonald Live,” a video podcast/talk show hosted by the famous comedian, on the platform. Earlier this spring, digital publisher HowStuffWorks pushed into longer-form documentaries by releasing eight films on Prime Video, including the 55-minute “The Great North American Road Rally.”
Funny Or Die and HowStuffWorks are releasing the new content exclusively on Prime Video, while Jash is making “Norm Macdonald Live” available on Prime Video the same day it streams live on YouTube and other platforms. In essence, Amazon is becoming a “first window” for a growing group of digital video producers making video shows and short films and looking for ways to effectively make money from them.
“‘Norm’ will be the first show where we include Amazon in our first window,” said Mickey Meyer, co-founder of Jash, a comedy studio backed by Sarah Silverman, Michael Cera and Reggie Watts, among others. “Traditionally, we’ve looked at Amazon as a place to put our library, but this is the first time we’re uploading on Amazon the same day that we put it up on YouTube.”
Last year, Amazon launched its Video Direct program, which allows video owners to freely upload their content to Amazon’s platform. Partners have multiple distribution and monetization options within Amazon’s ecosystem, but most choose to upload titles directly to the Prime streaming platform and make money based on how much time people spend watching their videos. Amazon pays 15 cents per hour streamed in the U.S. and 6 cents per hour abroad and doesn’t demand exclusivity, which means video owners can make money from Amazon on day one while also making money from the same video elsewhere.
Since joining Amazon Video Direct last year, Jash has uploaded more than 400 hours of material to Prime Video. While declining to report revenue numbers, Jash said Amazon has significantly contributed to the money the studio is making from platforms. Other publishers including HowStuffWorks have previously noted that revenues from Amazon Video Direct have the ability to approach and exceed what they can make from YouTube pre-rolls.
This made it an easy decision for Jash to premiere new episodes from the new season of “Norm Macdonald Live,” which will feature guests such as David Letterman, Sarah Silverman and Jerry Seinfeld, on Amazon alongside YouTube, according to Meyer. In doing so, Jash now has two ways to make money from “Norm Macdonald Live” on day one, without incurring any extra costs.
“Video Direct is a smart option for many video companies because it gives them — especially smaller ones — the opportunity to get broad reach while also experimenting with ad-supported, purchase and subscription business models,” said Peter Csathy, founder of media consulting firm Creatv Media.
With “The Real Stephen Blatt,” Funny Or Die is premiering a new show exclusively on Amazon for the first time. Starring Justin Long, the show centers on a 16-year-old kid who becomes obsessed with social media after receiving an iPhone for his birthday.
Amazon said Funny Or Die ranks as one of Video Direct’s best-performing digital partners in terms of time spent. This made it an easy choice for Funny Or Die — just like with Jash — to premiere new content on Amazon.
Similarly, HowStuffWorks has seen Prime Video users spend time watching its documentaries, which mostly run in the 10- to 20-minute range. With the revenue boost from Amazon, which also offers bonuses to partners with the highest-performing titles, HowStuffWorks and other video companies have spent more time thinking about how Amazon can fit into the video distribution mix.
Plus, there’s a guarantee with Amazon that the content will be in a high-quality environment with desirable audiences, said Jason Hoch, HowStuffWorks’ chief content officer. “It’s cool to be able to put something on a platform where you also see some great movies and TV shows, and for all of that to sit together — that’s pretty appealing for us,” he said.
Releasing new content on Amazon also allows digital video companies to play with business models that film and TV have long used — specifically, the “windowing” of content to generate multiple revenue streams for individual titles. By putting shows exclusively on Amazon, video companies still have the ability to put those same videos on other platforms such as YouTube at a later date. Once again, this practice creates two dual revenue streams from the same video.
“With Amazon, I still control distribution without having to make any creative sacrifices,” said Meyer. “There’s nothing stopping us from being able to do more except our own bandwidth.”