Original Prime Video shows got Amazon 5 million new Prime subscribers in 2017

Similar to Netflix and Hulu, Amazon creates a number of original programming for its Prime Video streaming service – one of the many perks that come with an Amazon Prime subscription. Amazon spends billions of dollars on this video content each year, and thanks to a new report, we now have a better idea as to how these original shows make Amazon money.

According to internal documents that were discovered by Reuters, 26 million people watched some sort of programming on Prime Video in 2017. However, of that 26 million, original content for the service helped draw in 5 million new subscribers for Amazon Prime.

To determine how its original programming is making the company money, Amazon reportedly uses a system it calls "cost per first stream." Amazon takes the total production/marketing cost of one of its shows, divides that by the number of people that viewed it as their first ever stream on Prime Video, and uses that number to figure out how much it cost to get a new Prime subscriber.

The Grand Tour secured Amazon 1.5 million new Prime subscribers for $49 each.

For example, a highly-popular show like The Grand Tour attracted 1.5 million of these "first streams." When the cost of producing and marketing The Grand Tour is divided by the first streams, Amazon determines that the show helped it get 1.5 million new Prime subscribers for just $49 each. Considering that a yearly Prime membership costs $99 in the U.S., that's a big win.

Another successful show for Amazon, The Man in the High Castle, cost $72 million to create while attracting 1.15 million first streams, resulting in a new Prime subscriber cost of $63 each.

Unfortunately, these big bets on original programming can also take a turn for the worse. Amazon released season one of Good Girls Revolt in 2015, and while it attracted a total of 1.6 million viewers, only 52,000 of those were first streams. In other words, that show cost Amazon $1560 for each new Prime subscriber it attracted.

Amazon's currently spending around $5 billion each year for both original and licensed content, and this makes it one of the company's largest expenditures. Going into 2018 and beyond with a Lord of the Rings prequel expected to cost the company more than $500 million on its own for two seasons, these costs don't appear to be decreasing any time soon.

If you're an Amazon Prime subscriber, have you watched any of Prime Video's original movies or TV shows?

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Joe Maring

Joe Maring was a Senior Editor for Android Central between 2017 and 2021. You can reach him on Twitter at @JoeMaring1.

  • Bosch is excellent, loved Goliath also.
  • That's a baseball stat if I've seen one.
  • Goliath and Man in the High Castle are both great. The new Tick is good, too, and I enjoy Top Gear, er, The Grand Tour when my kids watch it.
  • I'm the Grand Tour audience...mainly but do watch the documentaries too oh and the Tick series
  • I just wish Canada got the same Prime Video experience as America.
  • How do they know all of these people got prime because of video? How about the people like me that got it for the shipping and watch video once in a while just because it's included for free. These stats are like closing your eyes and throwing a dart.
  • Yea its definitely not a science.. Also what if the show sucks after the first episode and people are just curious.. it doesn't warrant the money then.
  • First stream seems an inexact science at best unless they're pairing it with data on new Prime subscribers who specifically joined by clicking through and signing up for the video service as the primary driver of the subscription. If someone has had Prime for a while but never watched a show until recently that stat is blown.
  • A quick search says Amazon estimated to spend 4.5 billion on original content for 2017.
    5 mil. Subscribers @ $99 = $495 mil. = Not a good return on investment!
  • Bosch, The Man In The High Castle and Absentia, so far.
  • I'll admit I'm one of those people who signed up for prime to watch The Grand Tour. We planning to anyways for awhile, and their sign up special pushed me over the edge.
  • I pretty much given up on Amazon I cancelled my prime membership for the first time in 5 years. The work conditions combined with the token pay combined with the $20 increase combined with the loss of brick and mortar stores combined with Bezos ridiculous wealth... I just can’t support this company anymore. The fact that I used 2 day shipping only about 5 times last year and there’s no word of a 3rd season of grand tour made it pretty painless. Also I’ve noticed prices are less and less competitive as they takeover the retail market. It all added up to make me feel like a frog in a pot of water. Rant over.