by Bill Snyder

Amazon beefs up Prime streaming, but is it worth the price?

Dec 09, 2015
Consumer Electronics

Amazon this week unveiled new, paid add-ons for its Prime streaming video service. As premium TV content goes cable free, consumers get more options — but people who don't do their homework could regret 'cutting the cord.'

amazon logo
Credit: REUTERS/Leonhard Foeger

Looking to begin a serious TV binge? If so, there’s good news: Amazon Prime added more than two dozen new networks, including Showtime and Starz, to its lineup of streaming video content.

On Tuesday, Amazon launched the Streaming Partners Program, a new way for Prime subscribers, who pay a $99 annual fee, to expand their streaming options. It’s available now, and the program offers streaming video from A&E Network, AMC and 24 other services, along with Showtime and Starz, in addition to the large library of movies and TV shows Prime already included. (You can see a complete list of content here.)

Showtime and Starz each cost $8.99 a month on top of the $99 annual membership fee for Prime. With the exception of Gaia, a health-focused streaming service, which costs $9.95 a month, the other services are cheaper, and in most cases, not very well known. The new Amazon plan also represents the first time Starz has been available to stream without a paid TV subscription.

So from your wallet’s perspective, does it make financial sense to subscribe to Prime and then add Showtime, Starz or both? That depends on the other programming options you want.

Prime vs. Dish and Comcast

If you already have a Dish TV account, it costs an additional $15 a month to add Showtime; Starz costs $14 per month. That works out to $5 a month more than you’d pay for the channels via Prime. But that’s really not a fair comparison. The $8.99 a month each for the two premium channels on Prime is on top of the $99-a-year Prime membership fee, which works out to $8.25 a month. However, you have to pay for a full year; a monthly option doesn’t exist

While Prime is a bit more expensive, members also get many more perks, such as free shipping on select orders. It’s also worth noting that most Dish and Comcast subscribers pay a few dollars more each a month for a DVR, which is not available for use with Prime.

Comcast’s price for Showtime and Starz is $19.99 a month each, when customers add them to what the cable company calls its “limited basic” service. However, the channel costs range from free to $10 a month when added to a number of Comcast’s more expensive packages.

Showtime also offers standalone streaming service for $11 a month, and it’s available as a Hulu add-on for about $10 a month.

Prime has a feature that sets it apart from the competition. Rather than having to jump from service to service, all of the video content you pay for in Prime is available in a single application and interface.

Don’t assume ‘cord cutting’ always saves $$

This is a lot of information to digest, and it all underlines a point I’ve written about for some time: Dropping traditional cable, and “cutting the cord,” means consumers will have to read a lot of fine print, and pay attention to many different factors, including cost, convenience, and the variety of content offered by each service, if they want to get the most out of streaming.