Amazon courts brand dollars as ad-supported OTT offerings hit 120M monthly viewers

Amazon courts brand dollars as ad-supported OTT offerings hit 120M monthly viewers

As part of its NewFronts debut, the company talked up a streaming slate that includes IMDb TV, Twitch and live sports and has grown viewership nearly sixfold over the past year.

Amazon's slate of ad-supported streaming platforms, which includes IMDb TV, Twitch, live sports, and network and broadcast apps available via its Fire TV portal, now reaches 120 million monthly active viewers, the company said at its debut presentation at the Interactive Advertising Bureau's NewFronts on Monday. That's a marked jump from the 20 million viewers recorded at the start of 2020, speaking to how the pandemic has accelerated cord-cutting and cord-never habits with which marketers are racing to keep pace.

"Thanks to new content sources on Twitch and organic viewership, Amazon OTT has nearly sextupled their growth in one year," said the virtual event's host and "Schitt's Creek" star Catherine O'Hara, who frequently played up bewilderment at Amazon's ad jargon.

As part of the pitch to advertisers and media buyers, Amazon highlighted how other offerings, such as its Alexa voice assistant and Fire TV remotes, can engage an over-the-top (OTT) audience in ways linear channels can't, including through interactive shopping capabilities. One segment featured a working mom watching a TV ad for Heinz ketchup and deciding to order the condiment through an Alexa voice command, which immediately put the product in her cart for checkout. Later, O'Hara summoned a batch of succulent plants with the click of a Fire TV remote, only to drop them after being surprised by the appearance of "Marvelous Mrs. Maisel" star Rachel Brosnahan.

With its first appearance at the NewFronts, a key venue for courting digital media dollars, Amazon hopes to fortify an already booming ad business. The company's "other" category, which mostly consists of advertising sales, surged 77% year-on-year to $6.91 billion in the first quarter of 2021.

"Three-quarters of our audience is completely unexposed to linear TV campaigns," Mark Eamer, vice president of IMDb TV, said during a tongue-in-cheek discussion with O'Hara. "We give advertisers the tools to reach audiences based on our billions of shopping and streaming signals and take action in simpler and smarter ways."

Growing content slate

While its largely ad-free Prime Video service is better known, Amazon used the NewFronts to throw a spotlight on other properties that are gaining fresh traction with consumers. IMDb TV saw viewership climb 138% year-on-year, with nearly three-quarters of that audience in the coveted 18 to 49 bracket. Amazon said it's developing a standalone mobile app on iOS and Android for IMDb TV in time for summer, while new programs from blue-chip creators like Dick Wolf and Michael Schurare also in the works.

Outside of traditional ad placements, Amazon partners can tap into in-show integrations and out-of-show custom storytelling options, as well as cultural and seasonal sponsorships around moments like Pride month, according to Alan Moss, Amazon's vice president of global advertising sales.

"Fewer ads make it less intrusive for folks than normal television," Eamer said of IMDb TV. "And, we've made it even easier for audiences to engage with those ads with seamless, actionable experiences using voice ... or remote."

"Three-quarters of our audience is completely unexposed to linear TV campaigns."

Mark Eamer

Vice president, IMDb TV

Twitch, a livestreaming platform centered more on user-generated and influencer content, has exploded in popularity since Amazon acquired it in 2014, helping to drive up interest in the gaming category. But Twitch's audience has diversified as well.

Consumption of non-gaming content on Twitch has grown 188% in the past year, Chief Operating Officer Sara Clemens said at the NewFronts. Publishers and networks including Rolling Stone and AMC are now deepening their Twitch partnerships to reach its typically young viewers, creating exclusive content to compliment programs like "The Walking Dead."

Amazon at the same time touted its growing stake in live sports as a differentiator from OTT and traditional network competitors. A broadcast of a regular-season NFL matchup between the Arizona Cardinals and San Francisco 49ers was streamed exclusively through Prime Video and Twitch late last year, drawing 11.2 million viewers, executives said at the NewFronts.

The NFL on Monday separately announced it was bumping up a deal that will see the exclusive rights to Thursday Night Football switch from Fox to Amazon Prime a year earlier than expected. Amazon will now take over Thursday Night Football for the 2022 season.

Media efficiency

Even as Amazon depicted a sprawling, diverse content empire, it also emphasized simplicity and efficiency for advertisers operating within its ecosystem. Amazon last fall finally made it possible for partners to purchase Twitch video and display ads through its core Amazon Advertising platform — a point called out at the NewFronts.

Amazon on Monday also revealed an audience guarantee for its self-service demand-side platform (DSP) that intends to address industry-wide challenges around advertising reach and frequency, according to Eamer. Through the new feature, media buyers can create campaigns with fixed pricing per placement and will only pay for the impressions that reach their intended audiences, executives said.

"Amazon DSP customers can start a guaranteed campaign in less than 30 minutes," Moss said. "With audience guarantee, you can create, launch and optimize all in place."