Amazon Prime Instant Video comes to the UK

In 5 days Prime will include unlimited streaming of movies and TV episodes.

You will be able to stream exclusive movies such as The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo and Tower Heist, and TV shows such as Vikings and Downton Abbey.

Starting February 26th, you can watch Prime Instant Video on game consoles, streaming players, smart TVs, mobile devices and Kindle Fire HD.

I’ve been a huge fan of Amazon Prime for a good number of years now – free next-day delivery of a vast range of products from the Amazon store, available to everyone in our household for just £49 a year has been a great deal for us (the downside being that that our Amazon ‘habit’ has increased, and that there are few days when an item doesn’t turn up in the unmistakable branded packaging).

However, Amazon Prime Video is something new to the UK.  So what is it?

Amazon Prime Video vs. LoveFilmLooking a bit deeper, it turns out to be a rebranding of LoveFilm Instant, the library of online movies and TV shows available to stream via computers, tablets and smart TVs that was acquired when Amazon bought LoveFilm a couple of years ago.  This extensive library of content will now be available free of charge for all Amazon Prime subscribers – it previously cost £5.99 a month (£72 a year) for LoveFilm subscribers.  This seems a great deal – there’s over 15,000 popular movies and TV episodes included and streaming is unlimited.  So if you’re a digital-only Lovefilm Instant user you can switch from paying £72 a year to using Amazon Prime and you get the same content plus all the benefits of the next day delivery etc.

The downside?  The cost of Amazon Prime will rise from £49 a year to £79 for all subscribers – whether you want the digital content or not.

So what does this mean for the various different subscriber types?

The current Amazon Prime customer

Your annual subscription rises from £49 to £79.  You now have access to a significant library of new digital content.  That may represent a good deal for you, however if you already have a subscription to another digital content library, or else just don’t watch online content, then it represents a sizeable increase in cost for no benefit.   It might be time to cancel your service.  Verdict: Mixed.

The current LoveFilm Instant customer

For now, you can continue to pay your £5.99 a month to Lovefilm, or switch to paying an annual fee of £79 to Amazon for the Prime Service.  The online content is the same, but you get all the benefits of the next-day delivery service.  If you don’t mind paying an annual fee versus a monthly one, then this seems a no-brainer for most subscribers. Verdict: Win.

The current LoveFilm by Mail customer

This is the equivalent of the old Blockbuster and Netflix DVD by mail services.  You subscribe for a cost of up to £13.27 a month to have up to 3 DVDs or Blu-Rays continuously on loan, plus access to the online library. Nothing changes right now for these customers – they can continue to access the library and the disks the same way they have for the past number of years.

The current Amazon Prime and LoveFilm customer

If you subscribe to both Amazon Prime and LoveFilm Instant, then it makes sense to cancel the LoveFilm subscription ASAP once the Amazon Prime Video service kicks off on 26th February.  You’ll get to save the £5.99 a month but will have to pay the increased Amazon Prime service renewal cost when it comes up.

If on the other hand you pay for the LoveFilm by Mail option then things are very much more difficult.  Amazon Prime Video does not have an off-line option, and whilst LoveFilm does allow a disk-only subscription, it is less than attractive – £7.99 a month for only one disk.

What about my situation?

As a household, this is the situation we’re currently in – we pay for Amazon Prime and for the top LoveFilm ‘Have It All’ package.  We love getting the Blu-Rays through the post, and value being able to watch movies in 3D and to have access to the extras that are not available when streaming.  In addition, living in a rural area means that network speeds are poor and that online streaming is patchy at best.

Therefore with this rebranding, our cost per annum has just risen from £208 to £238 with no significant addition to our service.  If we still want the 3 x Blu-Rays on loan, we have no option but to pay this additional cost.

The new customer

Sign up to Amazon Prime today and you’ll get the next-day delivery, the movie and TV show library and Kindle lending library all for one annual cost.  Do that before 26th February and you can lock in the £49 annual fee for 12 months.  Even better, Amazon will allow you to take a 30-day Amazon Prime trial and then pay the £49 fee if you decide to stick with the service.  This seems a great deal and one not to miss…

UPDATE – 25 February 2014

An email from Amazon today details the following:

We have worked hard behind the scenes to ensure this change is seamless:

• Your monthly LOVEFiLM bill will be reduced by £5.99 as the cost of the streaming service will be included in your Amazon Prime Membership.
• You will continue to enjoy the same selection of great movies and TV shows on DVD and Blu-ray with your LOVEFiLM By Post subscription.
• Your Rental List, Watchlist and account settings will all be available on Amazon.co.uk

That means that existing LoveFilm and Amazon Prime subscribers such as myself will now pay £5.99 less a month (£58.61 per annum), which more than offsets the £30 per annum Prime increase (from £49 to £79).

I still have questions regarding support for Amazon Prime Video versus LoveFilm Instant (e.g. on LG and Samsung SmartTVs etc.), but otherwise, I’m getting used to the idea of the change.  We’ll see!

Stuart McIntyre is a Senior Strategist at Fostering Community Limited. He curates a number of product-focused news sites, is a lapsed podcaster, founded the Social Connections user group and regularly speaks at conferences and events. This blog represents his own slightly-eccentric and usually-controversial opinions!
  • Sean Cull

    The HUGE downside is no Android support – that was enough to drive me to netflix.
    They are not perfect either ( the stopped weeds with no notice ) but they have android and their ability to stream on a poor broadband connection ( < 1MBPS ) is amazng – 1000% better than iplayer, youtube and Lovefilm

    The Android bit has puzzled many people for a long time and LF have made various promises and not kept them. Its a big price to pay just to push the Kindle Fire