Starting today, Amazon Prime users in the US will have free access to Amazon Video Direct. Which is... what exactly? According to the landing page, Direct will be "helping content creators and visual storytellers reach millions of Amazon Video customers." Uh huh.
By all accounts, Direct combines some of the more palatable elements of YouTube, Vimeo, and Netflix under one roof, which makes it an options-heavy proposition. Creators upload videos to Direct where they become available to customers to buy, rent, or stream. Then they chose if they want to:
- Earn a portion of streaming ad revenue
- Rev share with Amazon on purchases and rentals
- Split revenue from monthly subscriptions (subscriptions to what?)
- Some combination of all three
Wow! That's exactly the kind of convoluted business setup that's sure to pull in small-time creators who can definitely afford the lawyers to make sense of this arrangement. Fittingly, the testimonials on the Direct landing page come from corporate hotshots from Mattel, HowStuffWorks, and Goldwyn Films. Launch partners include Conde Nast Entertainment, The Guardian, and Business Insider.
To try to drum up interest, Amazon will be distributing "a share of $US1,000,000 ($1,367,423) per month as a bonus to the Top 100 titles." But because Amazon lacks the social elements of platforms like YouTube and Vimeo that would allow small-time creators to build and audience and flourish, they probably won't be getting a slice of that pie. Unless you're coming into Direct strapped with a PR budget, you're probably wasting your time. Which begs the question: what the hell makes this different from Prime? Streaming ads would seem to be the answer.
Is Direct trying to compete with YouTube? Or is it trying to offer a more attractive offer to publishers stuck with embeddable ad-serving video players like JW? If it's the former, Direct will probably end up in the scrapheap along with Amazon's attempt to dethrone Spotify. Feel free to sign up now, and have fun filling out the tax information section.