When introducing advertisements into the Prime Video service, Amazon unexpectedly removed Dolby Vision visuals and Dolby Atmos audio from its streaming quality.
Users now have to pay an additional fee for the best quality experience.
Streaming entertainment has taken over our televisions, but the heady days of affordable high-quality content seem to be in the rear-view mirror.
In the past year we've seen prices ratcheted up and the introduction of cheaper tiers, a confusing dichotomy where the biggest and best streaming services appear to be giving with one hand and taking away with the other.
That certainly seems to be the case with Amazon's Prime Video service. In September 2023 Amazon confirmed that it would be adding adverts into its Prime Video service. Not that it was adding a cheaper ad-supported tier (which is what Netflix did), but that it was adding advertising to the service that you're already paying for.
Amazon is in a slightly different position to other streaming services, because for many, Prime Video has been seen as a free perk of having a Prime subscription. That you could stream original content, in glorious Dolby Vision with Dolby Atmos audio, essentially for nothing, was a real bonus. Amazon even introduced an ad-supported service called Freevee to run alongside it.
Prime Video loses Dolby Vision and Dolby Atmos
The change that no one saw coming - and wasn't mentioned in Amazon's original announcement - is that there's also been a change to the streaming quality that you'll get. Amazon has flipped the switch, so you lose out on Dolby Vision visuals and immersive Dolby Atmos audio. That is, unless you pay the additional £/$2.99 monthly fee.
For home cinema fans, or those with the best televisions, this is a huge blow, because the great streaming service that seemed free, will now cost you an extra £/$35.88 a year if you want to get the best quality out of it. That's on top of the Prime subscription that you already pay.
If you paid for Prime Video as a standalone service (without the other Prime benefits) then your £5.99 / $9 monthly subscription cost remains unchanged, but you still have to pay extra to remove the adverts and get top quality back.
Amazon's justification for the introduction of adverts was to support the commissioning of new content. It perhaps reflects the state of the streaming industry in 2024 when there are more services and increased competition for new programming. While the streaming boom has opened up access to more content than ever, we all now face difficult choices when deciding exactly where to spend our subscription money.