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Amazon makes Prime Video its biggest redesign in years

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Compared to Netflix, Disney Plus, and other major streaming services, Prime Video has never been the most elegant or intuitive app. Its user interface lacks the polish of those competitors and feels more solid. There are good aspects to what’s there too – like the long-standing X-Ray feature that shows role information and other trivia whenever content is paused. But Prime Video hasn’t been significantly changed or reimagined in years.

After all, this is changing today. Starting now and over the next few weeks, Amazon will be introducing a new Prime Video experience for Android and connected devices in the living room, including smart TVs, Fire TV streaming equipment, Roku, Apple TV, Android TV, and game consoles. Amazon says the experience was designed to be “less busy and tedious for our customers.” The result, to be honest, is very similar to Netflix. And perhaps that’s for the best.


Every streaming app now looks the same.
Images: Amazon/Netflix, GIF: Chris Welch/The Verge

Prime Video’s main navigation has been moved to the left side of the screen and is now a vertical column of icons. The six main areas are Search, Home, Store, Live, Free, and My Stuff. The Home section has subsections dedicated to movies, TV shows, and sports. And the Store has similar sub-menus for Prime Channels (aka subscriptions), rent/purchase, and deals.

The home screen now has a top 10 list so you can easily find what’s hot, and the new Prime Video makes it much clearer what entertainment is included in your Prime subscription. These shows and movies are marked with a blue checkmark in the description, while content requiring rental or purchase will be marked with a gold shopping cart icon. It’s cleaner than adding an icon to every TV show snippet or movie cover, as Amazon used to do, though it means you’ll have to dig through the listings a bit to see what’s what.

The new Prime Video should be less cluttered.
Image: Amazon

It’s easier to tell what content comes with your Amazon Prime subscription.
Image: Amazon

As you navigate, you will find that many of the carousels have retained the same scenery as before. But Prime Video also introduced what it calls “super carousels,” with poster-style portrait art that expands into a video preview when you hover over a selection. Again, stop me if you’ve seen this concept elsewhere.

The redesign of Prime Video took 18 months. As we neared the finish line, the new experience was curated by Ben Smith, who is now Amazon’s vice president of product for Prime Video and Prime Studios. Smith is the same executive who led Hulu’s radical redesign in 2017. In retrospect, Hulu tried to reinvent the user interface and went too far in a new direction. Customers were quick to voice their displeasure, and the company spent many months holding back some changes and reverting to what was familiar.

In comparison, Prime Video’s redesign is deliberate, calculated and – as parallels to Netflix, HBO Max and Disney Plus show – much less bold. Amazon has done extensive usability testing and user research, finding that people generally accept changes very quickly. Given the growing similarities between all of these apps, this isn’t all that surprising.

Sports get more attention in the new Prime Video.
Image: Amazon

The Live TV section highlights live broadcasts from Prime and linear programming from Paramount Plus and other subscriptions.
Image: Amazon

In some cases, the goal was to better highlight the underutilized benefits of Prime Video. The new dedicated Live TV hub is a guide that brings together linear programming from subscription channels like AMC Plus and Paramount Plus, plus exclusive Prime live sports and promotional content free for everyone. This interface is already available online, but it’s likely to be used much more widely now that it’s become so widespread in the Prime Video app. “During usability testing, we repeatedly heard the phrase, ‘Wow, I didn’t even know Prime Video had a live stream,’” Product Director Helena Cerna said during a recent press preview.

Prime Video has a new coat of paint and layout, but popular features like multi-user profiles, X-Ray, and Alexa integration are still there. As before, you’ll see quite a lot of promoted content, and Amazon is still trying to force third-party content subscriptions on customers – just like there are rumors that HBO might be back in the fray.

It hasn’t been without some annoyances: Prime Video still presents TV seasons in a weird way (episode 0: trailer, anyone?) and can sometimes split 4K and HD versions of the same movie. Some of these dizzying organizational decisions stem from the fact that Amazon is still sells a lot of this content, while competitors only have to worry about letting you stream it.

The main channels (subscriptions) are the focus of the new experience.
Image: Amazon

After this initial rollout, the new Prime Video design will hit iOS and the web in the coming months. However, not all equipment will be able to work with the updated interface. For example, PlayStation 3 and Apple TV third generation 2012 will not be updated. Where devices do not receive the new version, they will stick with what they have for now and continue to provide access to Prime Video going forward.

The next few weeks will prove to be a good test of the new Prime interface. The Lord of the Rings: Rings of Power as well as NFL Thursday Night Football both premiere in September. Amazon plans to continue working on the new design based on customer feedback.

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