Amazon is experimenting with ad-supported television shows

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Amazon’s most-recent venture is actually a step backwards in terms of advancement, as it takes the company into a market that’s widely considered to be dying off: ad-supported television shows. Not only is Amazon supporting its new show, Fashion Fund, with advertisements instead of premium subscriptions, it’s also releasing the episodes on a weekly basis instead of releasing each season all at once for people to binge watch. While this doesn’t necessarily reflect a change in Amazon’s overall strategy for video streaming, it’s still an odd move. The strangest part is that, while Amazon has made it clear that ads will never come to Amazon Prime, people who pay for Prime will still have to sit through the ads.

Amazon is departing from its commercial-free video formula with a new ad-supported streaming TV show. The Fashion Fund is a reality show about a fashion-design competition, featuring Diane von Furstenberg and Vogue editor-in-chief Anna Wintour. The first episode of season 3 is now free to watch on Amazon.com, Amazon’s video apps, and Amazon Fire devices; future episodes will arrive on a weekly basis. (The first two seasons appeared on the Ovation cable channel, before Amazon picked up the series.) The show is notable for being Amazon’s first full ad-supported series. Even if you subscribe to Amazon Prime, you’ll still have to sit through multiple commercial breaks throughout each episode, some lasting a couple of minutes. (As Recode notes, Amazon has stuck ads into video before, but usually just for series premieres of other companies’ shows.) Speaking to Recode, an Amazon spokeswoman cast Fashion Fund’s ads as an experiment, one of many the company performs on behalf of its customers. “For this Fashion Fund project, we found it to be a very effective way to fund its production,” the spokeswoman said. “The show has strong interest from advertisers.” Indeed, at the start of Fashion Fund’s first episode, viewers are encouraged to visit a special section of Amazon’s website, which advertises lots of high-end clothing for sale. One might imagine a future version of ad-supported shows where the products on display are just one click or Alexa voice command away.

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