Amazon on Thursday launched a new video streaming service on its Hollywood website IMDb which allows viewers to watch free movies and TV shows supported by commercials, opening a new wealth of ad inventory to sell to brands.
Amazon has been developing the free video streaming offering for more than a year, and it is distinct from Amazon Prime, the subscription service that costs $120 a year, and is mostly without ads. (Amazon Prime does show commercials during Thursday Night Football games it streams as part of its deal with the National Football League.)
The catalogue of shows on the service, called IMDb Freedive, includes "Fringe," "Quantum Leap" and "The Bachelor," meanwhile feature films include "Memento," "True Romance" and "Look Who's Talking." Users can watch on IMDb's website or Amazon Fire TV devices, with the offering to be available on more platforms in the near future.
IMDb, which started as a repository for Hollywood credits, has morphed into an entertainment destination in its own right, and it has been a draw for advertisers, which can run video ads that takeover the homepage.
IMDb claims it has 250 million unique visitors a month looking up information about more than five million movies and shows. Those visitors now see direct links to view the select movies and shows that are carried by the new streaming service. At launch, only a few hundred titles were available to stream/.
"Customers already rely on IMDb to discover movies and TV shows and decide what to watch," said Col Needham, founder and CEO of IMDb, in a prepared statement. "With the launch of IMDb Freedive, they can now also watch full-length movies and TV shows on IMDb and all Amazon Fire TV devices for free. We will continue to enhance IMDb Freedive based on customer feedback and will soon make it available more widely, including on IMDb's leading mobile apps."
Amazon is competing with YouTube, Facebook, Hulu, Roku and even Walmart, which owns Vudu, in the ad-supported video space, a category that is increasingly attractive for brands that can't count on TV as the next-generation of viewers migrates online. Many of those viewers spend their time in ad-free Netflix and Amazon Prime.
Late last year, YouTube started showing ad-supported movies, too. In 2018, the digital video advertising industry grew 30 percent to $28 billion in the U.S., eMarketer reports. Meanwhile, Amazon's entire ad business has been growing rapidly, and it is now the No. 3 digital ad company in the U.S., according to eMarketer. Amazon is expected to top $7.23 billion in U.S. ad revenue this year, an increase of 57 percent from 2018, according to eMarketer.
That revenue growth is coming from increasing interest in the e-commerce platform, as brands commit more dollars to search and display ads on Amazon.com and in its wider ad network to promote sales of their products. Video is a priority for the company, too, with its Fire TV devices, where it also streams commercials to the apps on the platform.
Amazon is competing with Roku for living room dominance, too. When Roku announced this week that it now reaches 27 million homes, Amazon countered by saying it reaches more than 30 million homes with Fire TV.