#parent | #kids | Prime Video Channels: Should I be bundling HBO, Paramount Plus and Starz with Amazon?



Amazon

Cutting the cable TV cord can be overwhelming. There are so many new names and streaming services, so many places to get TV shows and movies, and so many pricing options that figuring out which one’s right for you is like an endless game of whack-a-mole. Amazon Prime Video, included with your Amazon Prime membership subscription, is one such option. Best known for its original series like The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, The Expanse, The Man In The High Castle and Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan, it’s also home to thousands of hours of TV shows and movies that you can stream immediately, similar to Netflix.

If that selection of video isn’t enough, Amazon lets you add  what it calls Channels for additional monthly fees. They range from well-known names like HBO, Starz, Showtime, Discovery Plus, Paramount Plus and MLB.TV to specialty services such as BritBox and Sundance Now to PBS subscriptions, including PBS Kids and PBS Masterpiece. 

So is adding any of them worthwhile? How do they compare with stand-alone options like HBO Max? How does the selection compare with Roku and Apple TV channels? Where do other services like Netflix or Apple’s new TV service fit in? Let’s break it down.

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What exactly do you get with Amazon Prime?

Before we get into Channels themselves, it’s worth breaking down what your basic Prime membership gets you. Here are the highlights.

  • Free overnight shipping on millions of products
  • Free release-date delivery
  • 5% cash back with an Amazon Prime card
  • Alexa deals
  • Unlimited Amazon Prime Video streaming

That’s just some of the 21 benefits every member gets. The cost of a Prime membership, before adding any Amazon Prime Video channels, is $119 per year.

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Amazon has more than 100 Prime Video channels.


Amazon

What are Amazon Prime Video Channels, and how do I get them?

Channels are optional add-ons for Prime subscribers, for an additional monthly fee, that provide on-demand or live streaming access to TV shows, movies and other video content from a provider. Subscribers can access the content from all compatible Prime Video devices, including via the Amazon Prime Video app on smart TVs and streaming devices, Android and iOS phones and tablets, computers and Amazon’s own Fire TV devices and Fire tablets.

Signing up for a particular channel is easy for Prime members.

  1. Sign in to your Amazon account.
  2. Browse to Amazon’s list of channels.
  3. Find the channel you want and select it.
  4. Click through to the main banner above the list of shows and movies.
  5. You’ll see a button, typically “7 day free trial” or “Get started” (if no trial is offered). Click it.
  6. Enter your PIN (if you have one set up).
  7. Confirm details to purchase.

That’s it. Once you confirm purchase your Amazon account will be charged, typically on a monthly basis, for the cost of the Channel, and you’ll have instant access to all of its TV shows and movies.

I don’t have a Prime subscription. Can I use Prime Channels?

No. Only active Prime subscribers can add Prime Channels. Amazon also doesn’t give access to users previously invited to share shipping benefits with a Prime member. See the Prime Video Channels section here for details.

What are the major Prime Video Channels?

Amazon has more than 100 different channels, and many of them are small specialty channels that fit into genres like Kids, British, Fitness, Comedy, Romance and LQBTQ. Here’s a look at some of the major ones and how much they cost.

Disclosure: CNET may get a share of revenue from the sale of the services featured on this page.

Select Amazon Prime channels

Can I watch live TV on Amazon Prime Video Channels?

Yes, but the selection is limited.

Typical live “channels” in the cable TV, sense, like ABC, CBS, CNN, ESPN, Fox and the rest, are not available as Prime Video Channels. To watch those you’ll need to subscribe to cable or a live TV streaming service like YouTube TV or Sling TV, which starts at $20 per month.

Amazon does offer a “live guide,” however, that includes TV shows and movies arranged in a channel grid form. Some are free, no subscription required, and some are unlocked when you subscribe to a Channel. The Fixer Upper Channel, for example, is available in the live guide when you subscribe to the Discovery Plus Prime Video Channel.


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Is it cheaper to subscribe to HBO Max through Prime Video Channels? What about other channels like MLB.TV?

Surprisingly for Amazon, subscribing through Channels doesn’t save money compared with subscribing to the services directly. It costs $14.99 per month to add HBO as an Amazon Prime Channel, for example, and a stand-alone HBO Max subscription costs the same amount. 

Using the HBO Max app also gives you access to more content, including HBO Max originals and theatrical releases that aren’t available if you watch via the HBO Prime Video Channel. You can use your Prime Video subscription to sign in to the HBO Max app, however.

As for other channels like MLB.TV, the monthly fees for Prime channels and their stand-alone equivalents are the same for every service we checked. 

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Numerous services, including HBO and Discovery Plus, are available as Amazon Channels or as stand-alone apps.


Sarah Tew/CNET

If Prime Video Channels cost the same (or more), what’s the appeal of going through Amazon?

Some services like BritBx, Acorn TV and CuriosityStream offer yearly discounts that aren’t available as Prime Channels. For example, the BritBox channel costs $6.99 per month as both a Prime Channel and via its stand-alone app, but the stand-alone subscription is also available for $70 per year, which works out to $5.83 per month. Aside from MLB.TV, nearly all Prime Video Channels are monthly subscriptions only.

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The main benefit of using Prime Channels is that it provides one place — the Prime Video app, a Fire tablet or Fire TV — to access content from multiple providers. Instead of watching Mare of Easttown via the separate HBO Max app, for example, you watch it within Prime Video. Billing is also handled by one central source (Amazon itself). Content from channels is also often included in Amazon’s search indexes, making it easier to find on Fire TV devices or via Alexa voice search.

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Can I bundle all my streaming services with Amazon? Netflix, Hulu, ESPN, Disney Plus, Apple TV Plus?

Sorry, nope. None of these stand-alone services is available as an Amazon Channel yet. To watch content from those services you’ll have to use their individual apps.

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PBS content is already free. Why would I pay extra for it through Amazon Prime?

Because Amazon gives you more. PBS has a few Channels like PBS Kids and PBS Masterpiece ($4.99 and $5.99 per month, respectively) that include content that’s also available elsewhere — including a basic Amazon Prime subscription and the separate PBS Kids and PBS apps — for free. In general the PBS Prime Channels have a larger selection and more current episodes than the free alternatives.

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How are Prime Video Channels different from Roku or Apple TV?

With the popularity of Amazon Channels, other streaming providers are following suit. Apple’s TV app offers channels in a very similar way to Amazon, albeit with fewer choices. And Roku has its own premium subscription system at The Roku Channel that’s similar to both, but again with a smaller selection of add-on channels than Amazon.

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Apple’s TV app has channels too. So does Roku.


Sarah Tew/CNET

Where can I find out more about subscribing to Prime Video Channels?

Check out Amazon’s Prime Video support page and main Channels page for more details.



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