Amazon Expands its TV Footprint, in Talks on Skinny Bundles

AMC Networks chief executive Josh Sapan and ESPN president John Skipper have both spoken recently about discussions with Amazon to include their channels in possible skinny bundles for the Internet. Amazon has gone on record as considering the idea for some time, but hasn’t responded to Sapan and Skipper’s remarks. Amazon isn’t the only online entity that might be hawking TV service soon. Turner Broadcasting chief executive John Martin reveals that he’s talking with six or so new companies looking to do just that.

Bloomberg reports that network executives are “trying to convince skittish investors that these so-called skinny bundles will halt recent subscriber declines and maybe even bring new customers into the pay-TV ecosystem.”

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“There’s some experimentation, I guess, one might call it, going on in early ways, but different ways, at Amazon,” said Sapan.

Online bundles exist — think Dish Network’s Sling TV and Sony’s PlayStation Vue — but they’re not easy to create because every network wants to be included and each channel added makes the overall bundle more expensive. Last year, Disney’s ESPN sued Verizon for not being included in a skinny bundle; Verizon will now provide two versions, one with and another without sports.

Skipper notes that Sling TV, with its 600,000 subscribers, is “not a broad-based offer.” “Our goal would be the more Slings there are, the more that we’re going to try to make sure our networks are in those packages,” he said.

Amazon has the scale and financial resources — as well as an established subscriber base with Prime — to be a big player. The company has spent big bucks acquiring and producing its own original content, which runs without ads, for Prime members. Now, says Re/code, Amazon has just debuted the first episode of Season 3 of “The Fashion Fund,” a 10-episode reality show produced by Conde Nast Entertainment that is available on Amazon.com for anyone willing to watch some commercials.

It’s not clear if this is a one-off or means more — perhaps to gain as many viewers as possible to sell fashion associated with the show, or perhaps as the first of other exclusive ad-supported shows. An Amazon spokeswoman was coy, saying only that “we’re always experimenting on behalf of our customers, including experimenting with ads.”

“For this ‘Fashion Fund’ project, we found it to be a very effective way to fund its production,” she said, noting that Prime Video will remain ad-free.