Amazon is giving Prime Video its biggest redesign in years

Compared to Netflix, Disney Plus, and other major streaming services, Prime Video has never been the most elegant or intuitive app. Its user experience lacks the shine of these competitors and feels rather cobbled together. There are good aspects to what’s there – like the long-standing X-Ray feature, which shows cast info and other trivia facts when the content is paused. But Prime Video hasn’t had a major overhaul or rethink in many years.

That is finally changing today. Starting now and over the next few weeks, Amazon will be rolling out a new Prime Video experience for Android and connected living room devices, including smart TVs, Fire TV streaming hardware, Roku, Apple TV, Android TV, and gaming consoles. According to Amazon, the experience was designed to be “less busy and overwhelming for our customers.” The result is honestly something that looks a lot like Netflix. And maybe that’s for the best.


Every streaming app now looks the same.
Images: Amazon / Netflix, GIF: Chris Welch / The Verge

Prime Video’s main navigation has been moved to the left side of the screen and is now a vertical column of icons. These six main sections are Search, Home, Store, Live TV, Free, and My Stuff. The Home section contains subsections for Movies, TV Shows, and Sports. And the Store has similar submenus for Prime Channels (aka Subscriptions), Rentals/Purchases, and Deals.

There’s now a top 10 list on the home screen so it’s easy to look up what’s popular, and the new Prime Video is a lot clearer about what entertainment is included with your Prime subscription. These shows and movies are marked with a blue checkmark in the description, while content that needs to be rented or purchased is marked with a gold shopping bag icon. That’s cleaner than adding a badge to every TV show or movie artwork like Amazon has done before, although it does mean you have to dig a bit into the listings to see what’s what.

The new Prime Video should feel less cluttered.
Image: Amazon

It’s easier to see what content is included with your Amazon Prime subscription.
Image: Amazon

As you navigate around, you’ll notice that many of the carousels have retained the same landscape graphics as before. But Prime Video has also introduced so-called “super carousels” with poster-style portrait art that expands into a video preview when you mouse over a selection. Stop me again if you’ve seen this concept elsewhere.

The Prime Video redesign was an 18-month project. As it neared the finish line, the new experience was overseen by Ben Smith, who is now Amazon’s VP of Product for Prime Video and Prime Studios. Smith is the same executive who led Hulu’s radical redesign in 2017. In hindsight, Hulu tried to reinvent the user interface and went too far in a new direction. Customers were quick to voice their grievances, and the company spent many months curbing some of the changes and getting back to what was familiar.

By comparison, Prime Video’s redesign is deliberate, calculated, and – as the parallels to Netflix, HBO Max, and Disney Plus show – far less daring. Amazon conducted extensive usability testing and user research and found that people generally accepted the changes very quickly. Given the growing similarity between all these apps, that’s not very surprising.

Sport gets a bigger spotlight in the new Prime Video.
Image: Amazon

The Live TV section highlights live events from Prime and linear programming from Paramount Plus and other subscriptions.
Image: Amazon

In some cases, the goal was to better highlight the underutilized benefits of Prime Video. The new, dedicated live TV hub offers a guide that pulls together linear programming from subscription channels like AMC Plus and Paramount Plus, plus Prime-exclusive live sporting events and ad-supported content free for all. This interface is already available on the web, but it’s likely to be used a lot more since it’s getting so much attention in the Prime Video app. “During usability testing, we repeatedly heard the phrase, ‘Wow, I didn’t even know Prime Video had live TV,'” product director Helena Cerna said during a recent press preview.

Prime Video has a new coat of paint and a new layout, but popular features like multi-user profiles, X-Ray, and Alexa integration are still there. You’ll still see a fair amount of promoted content, and Amazon is still trying to pass third-party content subscriptions onto customers — just as rumors of HBO’s possible return to the fray circulate.

A few annoyances have remained, too: Prime Video still presents TV seasons in an odd way (Episode 0: Trailer, anyone?) and can sometimes separate 4K and HD versions of the same film. Some of these head-scratching organizational decisions are due to the fact that Amazon is still sold lots of that content, while the competition just has to worry about letting you stream it.

Prime Channels (subscriptions) are a focal point in the new experience.
Image: Amazon

After this first phase of the rollout, the new Prime Video theme will be available for iOS and web in the coming months. However, not all hardware will be able to run the redesigned experience. For example, the 2012 third generation PlayStation 3 and Apple TV will not be updated. In cases where devices don’t receive the new version, they will remain with what they currently have and continue to provide access to Prime Video going forward

The next few weeks will prove to be a good test for the new Prime experience The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power and NFL Thursday Night Football both premiere in September. Amazon plans to continue iterating on the new design based on customer feedback.

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