Amazon modifies ad revenue, impressions share policy for international Fire TV apps

Amazon will soon require international app developers who offer ad-supported streaming video services available to Fire TV users to opt into their in-house ad publishing service or, where unavailable, offer up a cut of their ad revenue.

Starting September 1, Amazon will enforce a new developer policy that requires domestic and foreign streaming services to allocate 30% of their in-country advertising impressions to Amazon. Developers who offer up ad-supported Fire TV apps in the United States and whose apps see 50,000 hours or more usage in a given month will be required to enroll in Amazon Publishing Services (APS). The same applies for ad-supported Fire TV apps developed and distributed outside the United States, except the threshold is lowered to 30,000 hours of use per month.

In countries where APS isn't available, Amazon will require ad-supported streaming video services to provide 30% of their ad revenue to the company, starting September 30. Amazon will contact app developers in those countries to notify them of the requirement, the developer's note said.

In a statement, a spokesperson for Amazon told StreamTV Insider the move was intended to streamline their business practices with respect to third-party streaming video services.

"Our goal is to deliver a great streaming experience on Fire TV and help our streaming partners reach a growing number of customers around the world," the spokesperson said. "To support this, we are updating our commercial terms to ensure our business practices are consistent worldwide."

Prior to the change, enrollment in APS was mandatory for ad-enabled Fire TV apps where the program was available, but there was no specific policy on ad-supported apps in countries where it was not. The APS website does not make clear where the program is offered, and a spokesperson for Amazon did not return a follow-up email asking for information on the countries where APS is offered.

Amazon controls one of the most-dominant streaming TV platforms in the United States, with its Fire TV operating system installed on 40% of devices in the domestic market, according to data from Parks Associates shared with StreamTV Insider last year. It competes in the space against Roku, Apple TV, Google TV and native smart TV platforms; in the United States, Amazon and Roku collectively hold an 80% share, Parks Associates reported.

Amazon Fire TV is a forked, or modified, version of the Android operating system, and is designed to run on Amazon's own line of Fire TV-branded streaming sticks, cubes and smart TVs. Third-party apps like Netflix, Disney Plus, Hulu and YouTube are available to download from the Amazon App Store on Fire TV devices, but must be developed and distributed in line with Amazon's policies and approved by the company before the apps are available to users.

On more than one occasion, Amazon's app developer policies have led some major services to pull their apps from the Amazon App Store, or not support Fire TV devices at launch. In 2017, Google pulled its popular YouTube app from Amazon Fire TV devices, forcing streamers to find alternative ways to access YouTube videos or use a different device. YouTube returned to Amazon under a multi-year deal with Google in 2019.

In 2020, Comcast decided its Peacock streaming service would not support Amazon Fire TV devices at launch. At the time, Peacock offered a free, ad-supported tier of service and a premium, ad-lite plan; the dispute centered around how much ad inventory Amazon would control in the ad-inclusive Peacock plans, according to people familiar with the issue. The dispute was resolved one year later.

Like other tech and media companies, Amazon has faced pressure over the last few months to cut down on costs and look for new sources of revenue amid prolonged economic turbulence. In April, the company laid off around 27,000 workers across multiple divisions, including its Amazon Advertising sector, its smart home and connected services operation and its gaming-centric streaming service, Twitch.

To build out its streaming video products, Amazon has spent billions of dollars producing and licensing original TV shows and movies, with content costs reaching $16.6 billion in 2022, according to a company filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. Around $7 billion of that budget was earmarked for original content production, a company executive affirmed in February.

Some of that content spend was intended to help bolster Amazon's free, ad-supported streaming service, Freevee, which has launched a number of its own originals since the start of the year. Ad-supported streaming services have been seen as a somewhat-resilient part of the media industry, with some analysts projecting connected TV and other addressable ad products to increase to as much as $87 billion over the next few years.

But executives are having some reservations that Amazon's outsized content spending is producing results in line with those projections. Earlier this month, Bloomberg reported Amazon CEO Andy Jassy has been asking executives across the company's various media divisions to explain and justify their expenses. The directive came after Amazon spent hundreds of millions of dollars churning out original programs like "Dead Ringers" and "The Peripheral" that failed to top Nielsen's list of most-watched streaming series, Bloomberg said.