A Look at Amazon’s New Open Marketplace for Digital Video Content

Amazon Video Direct

Earlier this month Amazon announced Amazon Video Direct, a solution that allows everyone from amateur home movie makers to major film studios the ability to upload content into Amazon’s ever-growing library of digital video.

The major announcement could be in response to Amazon’s not-so-secret struggle to get customers to watch their licensed video content. A recent small-scale study found that 20% of Amazon Prime customers had never touched Prime Video, while only 10% of users reported frequently using the premium video service – something that is already included with their subscription price.

For creators, this means another platform to distribute content on in hopes of reaching new audiences and more lucrative payouts.

Content uploaded to Amazon Video Direct must adhere to a set of quality standards, however; it’s not for your shaky vertical cat videos, as cute as they may be. All content must be uploaded with a closed caption file, be filmed in the English language, and have high definition resolution.

Creators retain all ownership to their content uploaded to Amazon Video Direct, and Amazon does not reserve any exclusive distribution rights to the content. If a creator wants to pull their content from Amazon’s library, they are required to give 30 days advanced notice. Amazon reserves the right to the best price – if your rental/purchase/add-on subscription content is available for cheaper on other digital platforms, Amazon reserves the right to license the content at the same rate. Language is vague, but it also appears that creators aren’t able to upload any sponsored content to Amazon Video Direct.

Amazon is sweetening the deal with monthly performance incentives. The AVD Stars program will divvy out $1 million each month, divided between the 100 top-performing titles based on overall proportion of engagement within the qualifying group of titles. The first bonuses will be distributed based on the June 1 – June 30 period, with winners being announced by July 31 at the latest.

Revenue Sharing

Signing up to Amazon Video Direct is quick and painless – similar to signing up for a YouTube channel and AdSense account. The rates are competitive, too. Creators uploading their content to Amazon Video Direct are given their choice of distribution model on a per-upload basis:

 Model YouTube Amazon Vessel
Free (ad-supported) 55% 55% 70%
Digital rental/purchase 55% 50%
Add-on subscription 55% 50%
Platform-wide subscription YouTube Red

55% of subscription revenue split by watch time

Amazon Prime Video

$0.15/hr in United States
$0.06/hr in other territories


60% of subscription revenue split by watch time


Let’s take a closer look and compare Amazon’s unique platform-wide subscription revenue model, paying creators by the hour watched, to YouTube and Vessel’s percentage-based model.

Comparing the platform-wide subscription revenue models of YouTube, Vessel, and Amazon Video Direct

This graph attempts to compare the apples-to-oranges way that Amazon pays creators. You’ll see watch time percentage (used by YouTube Red and Vessel) lined up with watch time hours in a way that equates 100% of watch time to 20 hours – this assumes one 40-minute viewing session per day (YouTube’s mobile average) for 30 days. Keep in mind this data is all arbitrary and assumes that fans who subscribe to Amazon or Vessel will watch just as much content there as a YouTube viewer would, which is likely not the case.

“It’s an amazing time to be a content creator,” said Jim Freeman, VP of Amazon Video. “With Amazon Video Direct, for the first time, there’s a self-service option for video providers to get their content into a premium streaming subscription service.”

Amazon Video Direct has already inked deals with digital media moguls including Machinina, TYT Network, and StyleHaul, as well as other traditional media publishers like Conde Nast Entertainment. The platform is up and running today for interested creators to try it out.