A limited media message in Amazon Q4 earnings: be content with our content

On the day that Amazon announced $14.3 billion in fourth-quarter net income and an upcoming 17% hike in the cost of a yearly Amazon Prime subscription in the U.S., the Seattle tech giant’s video businesses got the equivalent of a closing-credits cameo in its earnings news.

Amazon broke out advertising as a separate line for the first time ($9.7 billion in fourth-quarter sales) but kept video and other content business filed under “Subscription services” ($8.1 billion in Q4), a category that leads off with Amazon Prime revenue.

(Amazon sells a standalone Prime Video subscription for $8.99 monthly, offering little annual savings compared to a yearly Prime subscription that today runs $119 and will rise to $139 starting Feb 18.)

Amazon’s earnings release noted that in 2021, “over 200 million Prime members worldwide streamed shows and movies.” The company didn’t cite the total number of Prime subscribers, although in January Consumer Intelligence Research Partners estimated that Amazon had 172 million U.S. Prime members in the fourth quarter of 2021.

After that, the release stuck mostly to popularity metrics for Amazon’s video business:

• Amazon said Q4 marked a new high for Prime Video sports viewing globally, citing Thursday Night Football setting an unspecified average-number-of-devices-streaming record.

• Fire TV streaming-device sales worldwide since that category’s 2014 debut now exceed 150 million.

• The release highlighted award recognitions for Prime Video original movies ("Being the Ricardos," "The Tender Bar," and the Farsi-language "A Hero") and series ("The Underground Railroad").

Amazon emphasized its growing international ambitions, noting its 28 debuts in such non-U.S. markets as Argentina, Australia, India and Italy. It’s not alone in leaning into localizing itself for overseas viewers, with streaming rivals like Netflix, HBO Max and Disney making similar moves.

On the earnings call, Amazon executives briefly touted two Prime Video exclusives coming in September—the J.R.R. Tolkien-inspired fantasy series The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power, and Thursday Night Football, which will become Amazon-required viewing as part of a deal inked in 2021 with the NFL—and then barely got quizzed about video.

Asked in the call’s last question about the importance of live sports, CFO Brian Olsavsky cited the Thursday Night Football deal as an example of “great new content that we’ve been investing in for Prime members to make the Prime membership more valuable” and said Amazon was making similar investments overseas, such as English Premier League and other soccer leagues.

“We have been working at getting sports properties that will be beneficial and valuable to Prime,” he said. “We’re still probably early on in that.”