“We’ll never know the number, because, even to us, Amazon won’t tell us what the viewing figures are,” so said The Grand Tour producer Andy Wilman in the build-up to the show’s launch last month.
For the UK’s traditional broadcasters audience figures are very important – for the BBC high viewing figures allow it to justify the continued existence of the Licence Fee, while ITV relies on them to set how much it charges advertisers and programme sponsors.
But viewing figures are, in isolation, less important for pay-TV services such as Sky which has never attracted the same sized audiences as ITV and the BBC yet airs some of the most talked about shows on TV. What matters here is not that a specific show attracts millions but that its presence on the platform makes a customer feel their Sky subscription delivers value.
BT too has smaller audiences than its rivals but its investment in hugely expensive sports rights has reversed years of decline in its broadband and fixed line phone business and so delivered growth for shareholders.
As more and more content providers with different business models emerge, the importance of audience numbers in isolation dwindles.
This is also true of Amazon’s video streaming service, Prime Video which ends 2016 basking in the glory of Jeremy Clarkson’s triumphant return to TV in The Grand Tour.
Much has been made in various articles and on forums that we we have no idea whether TGT is outperforming the dire Chris Evans Top Gear, let alone matching the size of audience tuning in to watch Clarkson, James May and Richard Hammond on BBC Two, yet this is to miss the point.
Like Sky, what matters for a business like Amazon is not the audience for a specific episode or series but whether a show’s availability is helping persuade people to part with their money.
Amazon’s latest trends report credits The Grand Tour with driving the highest number of Amazon Prime sign-ups of “all previous days, with the exception of Amazon’s renowned Prime Day.”
Of course Amazon wants people to watch the expensive shows it commissions and so will be pleased the series “was the biggest” Prime Video premiere but what it really wants the show to do is pull in large numbers of new Prime subscribers.
The trends report, which was released this week, suggest that on this much more important metric the show is already delivering and will continue to do so as it’s used to launch the new standalone Prime Video service in 200 countries and spur purchases of Grand Tour merchandise – a range of T-shirts is already available.
Amazon has of course also used Clarkson and The Grand Tour to push take-up of its Fire TV stick which back in September it discounted by £25 to a mere £9.99.
The Grand Tour is just one example of how Amazon is increasingly using content to draw shoppers into its wider service and hardware range.
The recently launched Amazon Music Unlimited service will cost £9.99 per month, the same as Apple Music. But the retail giant offers Prime subscribers a £2 per month discount on that price and has an even more generous £3.99 deal for those who buy one of its Amazon Echo or Dot devices.
Apple wouldn’t give you a one penny discount on its music service even if you spent two grand on a brand new MacBook but Amazon rewards customers who make the relatively small investment in an Echo (£149) or Dot (£49) with a discount which makes it clear their custom is appreciated.
Fusing services with hardware – Apple of course did this with iTunes and the iPod but has so far made no move into audio streaming for the home – helps bring people into the Amazon eco-system where they’re more likely to look for their next service or hardware purchase. It’s a smart business model and already the firm is able to see how customers use Music Unlimited on their Echo.
According to the trends report the most streamed songs on Amazon Music Unlimited since it launched in November were:
1 – Clean Bandit / Rockabye
2 – Little Mix / Shout out to my Ex
3 – Bruno Mars / 24K Magic
4 – Justin Timberlake / Can’t Stop the Feeling!
5 – The Weeknd / Starboy
while the most streamed albums are:
1 – Michael Buble / Christmas
2 – Adele / 25
3 – Emeli Sande / Long Live The Angels
4 – The Weeknd / Starboy
5 – Bruno Mars / 24K Magic
Amazon has already made the move into exclusive music via a tie-up with Garth Brooks and the usage data from Music Unlimited and Echo means it’ll now have a rich seam of data with which to understand not just what music customers listen to, but how they interact with it.
Given the vast sums it’s spent on top notch TV content, it’s surely a safe bet that Amazon will be mulling using this data to commission or tie-up more songs from big name music acts too and further enhance the appeal of its wider offering.