A few weeks ago, Amazon started putting ads into the feeds of Prime Video subscribers. The pitch was simple: Amazon wants more money, so if you want to continue getting the ad-free Prime Video service has offered you for years you’d need to pay more. And now there’s an even worse issue if you don’t start paying more for Prime Video: the loss of both Dolby Atmos and Dolby Vision.
As discovered by German site 4K Filme, and then corroborated by Forbes, subscribers to the newly ad-supported Prime Video tier are no longer able to stream the best Prime Video series and best Prime Video movies in either Dolby Atmos or Dolby Vision.
As described by Forbes: “In the ads-free account, the TV throws up its own confirmation boxes to say that the show is playing in Dolby Vision HDR and Dolby Atmos. In the basic, with-ads account, however, the TV’s Dolby Vision and Dolby Atmos pop-up boxes remain stubbornly absent.”
At first I thought this was a cock-up: surely no streamer would be so anti-consumer as to degrade customers’ audio and video without warning? But nope: Amazon has confirmed it isn’t a mistake. Such a move could result in Amazon seeing more legal action like the class action lawsuit over its introduction of ads.
Opinion: Amazon’s move is deeply anti-consumer
The Verge has confirmed that the removal of Dolby Atmos and Dolby Vision is no error or technical fault. According to a spokesperson: “Dolby Vision and Dolby Atmos capabilities are only available on the ad free option, on relevant titles.”
The word “enshittification” is being thrown about a lot. Coined by Cory Doctorow, the term describes how companies get customers locked in and then slowly but surely degrade the product and demand more money to deliver the features that they’re taking away. And this looks like a very clear example of that. The pirate sites must be rubbing their hands in glee.
What’s galling about it isn’t so much the removal of the features, as bad as that is, but the way Amazon has done it. It’s like leasing a car only to discover one morning that the car company has changed the contract and you need to pay more cash if you want to get your tires and your steering wheel back.
The move says a lot about Amazon’s attitude to Prime Video customers, none of it good. The streamer has removed core features secretly, without any notification or any notice, and when people noticed it’s just shrugged. And that’s got to make you wonder: what other features will Amazon start holding to ransom? How long before it decides Premium subscribers must be milked for more money too?