Amazon Freevee Content Chiefs Say Rebranding IMDb TV Goes Beyond Highlighting That It’s Free

Office With a View: “It’s also about freedom from time slots, freedom from search, select device availability and freedom for creators,” the execs tell TheWrap

Ryan Pirozzi and Lauren Anderson, Amazon Freevee's co-heads of content and programming (Amazon Freevee, TheWrap)

Amazon’s free streaming service IMDb TV relaunched as Amazon Freevee in April and the service’s heads of content programming, Lauren Anderson and Ryan Pirozzi, say the name change isn’t just about letting people know the content is free. The rebrand also highlights how Freevee has “freedom from time slots” and “freedom for creators to tell stories,” Pirozzi told TheWrap for this week’s Office With a View.

Amazon Freevee, part of a wave of free ad-supported TV services, hit the ground running with a May launch of “Bosch: Legacy,” a sequel to the hit Amazon Prime series “Bosch,” and has a number of big-name projects coming up, including Greg Garcia’s “Sprung,” starring Garret Dillahunt and Martha Plimpton; Clea DuVall’s “High School” series, based on the bestselling book by singers Tegan and Sara Quin; and the half-hour real-time cop drama “On Call” from the company behind “Law & Order,” Wolf Entertainment, which is about to start casting.

Amazon Freevee is also premiering its first original movie, the Brenda Song rom-com “Love Accidentally,” on July 15.

Additionally, Amazon Freevee has secured a short-term licensing agreement with Disney Media and Entertainment Distribution for a limited selection of movie titles, including “Deadpool,” “Deadpool 2,” “Logan,” “Hidden Figures,” “Murder on the Orient Express,” and “The Post,” which will be available to customers on the free streaming service.

And in a deal with NBCU, Amazon Freevee has an exclusive network window for films from Universal Filmed Entertainment Group’s 2020-21 theatrical slate, including “Dolittle,” “The Invisible Man,” “Promising Young Woman,” “F9 (Fast & Furious 9),” and “Sing 2.”

Read on as Pirozzi and Anderson describe more about the impetus for the rebrand, how they plan to differentiate Amazon Freevee from other streaming services and the current streaming pivot to advertising-supported subscriptions.

Let’s talk about the rebranding and how the new name was chosen.
Ryan Pirozzi: We really wanted a name that helped communicate what Amazon Freevee is. IMDb TV was a perfectly great name, since IMDb is a world-renowned database for movie and TV information. But we don’t think it helped people understand what we are. As we got ready for our biggest original series, “Bosch: Legacy,” we thought it was a great time to find a new brand. Freevee doesn’t just refer to the price point, which is a great one. It’s also about freedom from time slots, freedom from search, select device availability and freedom for creators to tell stories. 

Shakira Barrera, Martha Plimpton, and Garret Dillahunt in "Sprung."
Shakira Barrera, Martha Plimpton, and Garret Dillahunt in “Sprung.” (Dennis Mong, Amazon Freevee)

What’s been your strategy to set Amazon Freevee apart from other streaming services?
Lauren Anderson: It’s evolved over the last two years, as others have entered the space. Bringing broadcast to streaming was a big part of it at first. We were really excited about being a modern broadcast network and to have content being made exclusively for streaming. On other services and on our own Prime Video, broadcast shows do incredibly well. The customers loved those shows, but they just wanted them delivered in a more convenient way. We had an opportunity to do the first run of shows [with producers like Greg Garcia and Elliot Wolf, the son of Dick Wolf] and we’re excited. 

We know [audiences] aren’t rejecting broadcasts, but they just want it again in a much more convenient way. Our originals, in particular, are part of a service that has premium free originals in front of the paywall. And having a brand ethos that was about modern broadcast are really key components of our differentiation strategy. And then you couple that with premium licensed content, and our Pay 2 deal, it really differentiated us from other services in the market. One of the things we joke about is we want customers to be surprised that they’re getting all of this great content for free.

What percentage of your content is licensed and how much is original at this point, and what’s the goal going forward?
Pirozzi: We offer thousands of titles and the vast majority are licensed content. We’ve launched about 20 originals and our first original film, but it was really about differentiating the service, giving us exclusive content. Defining our brand and original series and films for us are about customer acquisition, as are Pay 2 window movies. This is a very similar model to SVOD [subscription video on demand]. Both Lauren and I came from Prime Video before coming over to Freevee. It’s a very similar model where they acquire customers with original series and original movies, and pay-window movies and engage deeper with the library.

Is there a significant difference between Amazon Prime and Amazon Freevee, other than the paywall?
Pirozzi: Prime Video is a phenomenal subscription video on demand service. With Amazon Freevee, we saw the opportunity to open up the aperture of the number of customers we can serve. There are plenty of Prime members who liked the selection on Freevee and are willing to watch ads to view it. But also, we’ve got a lot of customers that for one reason or another don’t want to be behind the paywall. For them, Freevee is a great solution. It’s up-leveled the quality of content people might expect to be on a totally free service. This isn’t just an ad-supported tier that you also have to pay for monthly. It is a completely free service.

Anderson: We’re excited about the way in which Freevee is a complement to what’s being offered on Prime Video. New customers are a big KPI [key performance indicator] of ours, of course. We also want them to enjoy what they’re watching. So we want to make sure that when they come, they’re really engaged and are staying and are excited to watch other things in the service. When we’re bringing customers in with something new, we want them to find so many things that they love, their favorite older movie or television show [and to be] surprised a movie as recent as “F9,” for example, is in the service. We want to become a fan-favorite destination service. I want people to say, “My favorite show is on Freevee.”

Disney+ and Netflix are preparing to add cheaper, ad-supported tiers. Do you think more streamers are going to go that route?
Pirozzi: It’s hard to speculate on what other services will do. But certainly, [AVOD] opens up new opportunities for customers, in both selection and price point. So it’s not surprising that other streaming services are exploring what ads can do for them.

How do you engineer your content around the ads?
Pirozzi: Lauren and I spend a lot of our time talking to advertisers, of course, with our ad sales team and listening to what they’re interested in. I think the biggest thing they’re excited about is to get into these great streaming programs which they haven’t had a chance to do before on platforms like Prime Video and Netflix. We really value them as customers and think about their needs. When we’re developing, we work with creators [and] we’re excited to have advertisers as part of this. We spend a lot of time talking about how we up-leveled the kind of content that you can expect on a free streaming service. To make it as great of an ad experience as possible, we have about half the ad load one might expect on traditional television, which we think is a good place to start and we’ve got more places to grow.

For the record: A previous version of this story incorrectly referred to Wolf Entertainment as Dick Wolf Productions. TheWrap regrets the error.