Amazon Prime Video’s biggest problem isn’t content, it’s everything else

Amazon Prime Video best movies action and adventure

Opinion post by
Hadlee Simons

I’m not the movie and TV show enthusiast in my household. I usually prefer to play video games on PC or console instead. Still, there are times when I’d like to just laze on the couch and watch something instead of playing a game.

I have a Netflix account and one or two accounts for niche streaming services, but recently I’d been looking for additional options. So I thought it’d be a good idea to sign up for Amazon Prime Video a few months ago. After all, Prime Video is only $6 a month here in South Africa compared to $9 a month for the basic Netflix plan. But after using it for some time now, it’s clear why Netflix is still largely seen as the gold standard — and it’s not just the variety of things to watch.

No, the biggest problem with Prime Video isn’t the content, but rather everything else around the service.

Content discovery is awful

Amazon Prime Video search edit

Why not just roll multiple seasons into one listing?
Credit: Hadlee Simons / Android Authority

Probably the main issue with Prime Video is just how terrible the content discovery is. One annoyance in my book is the fact that Amazon lists seasons of shows separately instead of just listing the show once with a sub-menu for seasons. It feels like a particularly transparent way to pad the homepage and search index, giving the illusion of there being more content than there is.

Speaking of padding, it also has a habit of recommending content in a language or from a locale I’ve never shown any interest in. Whatever content suggestion algorithm is at work isn’t up to scratch. I’m not alone in this either. I asked some of Android Authority‘s staff about their experiences as subscribers.

“The Fire Stick also constantly shows me banner ads for content in languages I never watch, and the indexing just seems really off all the time,” our own Palash Volvoikar says. “I think it’s got good content but it’s nearly unusable at times.”

Related coverage: What’s new on Amazon Prime Video

Our own Adamya Sharma also lamented Prime Video’s poor search functionality based on her experience with the service.

“So many times inputting the exact movie name doesn’t bring up the title. I’ve had to access stuff from Google Search sometimes but Amazon refuses to throw up results on its own website or app,” she explains.

I haven’t used Prime Video’s search option often enough, but I have noticed that Netflix tends to have better recommendations when you’re searching for content that isn’t available in its portfolio. For example, neither service has Face/Off in their catalogs, but Netflix at least recommends movies with Nicholas Cage and John Travolta, in addition to suitable movies from that time frame. Meanwhile, Prime Video shows a random collection of content including Hell Boy 2, Yu-Gi-Oh, and kids’ cartoons.

Neither service offers Canadian comedy series Letterkenny either, but only Netflix attempts to offer recommendations (e.g. Derry Girls, Trailer Park Boys, etc.). Meanwhile, Prime Video can’t be bothered to do this and simply shows the most popular content in general. That’s not to say Netflix doesn’t occasionally serve up nothing for a search or serves up irrelevant results, but it seems to happen more often with Amazon’s service.

Other major areas of improvement

Amazon Prime video shown on smartphone stock photo

Credit: Edgar Cervantes / Android Authority

Even something as simple as the synopsis isn’t handled properly on Prime Video’s Android TV app. Sure, you can tap the ellipsis on your phone to expand the synopsis, but this isn’t possible on Android TV. Instead, you’re left with half a description to go on when deciding to watch something.

Found the show or movie you’d like to watch? Well, hitting “play” yields another silly decision. Amazon offers pre-roll ads for its own content. They already have my money for the service, but they think I should know about the latest Grand Tour special. This wouldn’t be as annoying if they chose to highlight far less prominent content, but it’s still irksome all the same.

That’s not to say that Prime Video doesn’t have some positives. My colleague Mitja already outlined some of the best features of the service, including the surprisingly broad content library and the lower price. It also helps that the service is included “free” with Amazon Prime where available.

In addition, the subtitles generally tend to be of a lower quality than rival streaming services, but the level of customization for them is admirable. Prime Video’s X-Ray feature is another handy function, highlighting actors in a given scene. IMDB integration for ratings is another nice touch too.

Nevertheless, it’s high time for Amazon to focus on making Prime Video less of a mess. Sure, its deal to acquire MGM for almost $9 billion will significantly bolster the content library. But again, what’s the point of having a ton of content if it’s a chore to find what you actually want to watch?

What do you think of the Amazon Prime Video experience? Let us know by voting in the poll above or leaving a comment.

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