The newest streaming service has been hiding in plain sight for the last two years and wants to appeal to those who are fans of older-skewing broadcast dramas like “Law & Order” and “NCIS.”
IMDb TV, Amazon’s free ad-supported streaming service, is plotting an expansion to join the gold rush that is direct-to-consumer digital video. Peak TV has given way to Peak Streaming. Ryan Pirozzi, co-head of content and programming at IMDb TV, is fine if viewers have never heard of IMDb TV.
“It wasn’t that long ago that I had to tell people what Prime was and then, certainly early in my Amazon career, what Prime Instant Video was,” he tells TheWrap.
While IMDb TV is joining an ever-increasing streaming field, Pirozzi and his fellow co-head of content and programming Lauren Anderson are looking to attract viewers that actually like the kind of shows that used to litter the broadcast and basic cable networks. To make that point, “Law & Order” creator Dick Wolf is doing a cop show for IMDb TV called “On Call.”
“We’re more focused on luring people with great stories they want to see. I think central to our sort of vision of this modern broadcast network is the idea that cord cutters, yes, they’re leaving traditional broadcast and basic cable for streaming,” Pirozzi says, but adds: “It’s not a rejection of the kind of content that you find there — they still love that content. It’s more embracing everything that’s convenient and wonderful about streaming.”
Launched in 2019, IMDb TV (then known as IMDb Freedive) was more like ViacomCBS’ Pluto TV, a place where people could watch old shows for free. In early 2020, Amazon moved IMDb TV’s content team under Amazon Studios with the goal of creating original content. When Amazon bagged the streaming rights for AMC’s Emmy-winning “Mad Men,” they put it on IMDb TV.
The service’s first original series, “Alex Rider,” debuted last November and has since been followed by docuseries “Top Class” and fellow scripted series “Leverage: Redemption.” Judge Judy Sheindlin, who is hanging up her gavel on “Judge Judy” this spring, picked IMDb TV as the home for a new series. IMDb TV will air a sequel to one of Amazon Prime’s first (and longest-running) series, “Bosch,” that will bring back star Titus Welliver for a new adventure.
On Monday, Amazon announced more projects in development from the likes of Mike Schur and Sara Gilbert, plus three new unscripted series orders.
“We’re still in our infancy. And so I think part of that means that we are in some ways going to be defined by the first group of shows that come out and really resonate with audiences. But you know, we don’t take the words ‘modern broadcast network’ lightly. So the ‘Bosch’ spinoff is absolutely something we want to be defined by. But we also want to be defined by the untitled Judge Sheindlin project,” Anderson says. “It’s very much thinking of what broadcast meant in its heyday. We really want to bring that back.”
Many of those viewers of broadcast and cable shows have migrated to the streaming era. The cable bundle is declining. Just six years ago, more than 100 million homes in the U.S. subscribed to some sort of cable or satellite package. That number is now around 80 million and figures keep falling. The most realistically-hopeful estimates are that it will settle around 50-60 million homes. For the sake of comparison, Netflix alone has more than 74 million subscribers in the U.S. and Canada.
Since IMDb TV’s launch, there have been five streaming launches (one of them didn’t last very long) and one re-brand from the likes of Disney, WarnerMedia and NBCUniversal. Pirozzi and Anderson know they’re in a crowded market and understand viewers might shudder at the fact that there might be yet another streaming service that is begging for their attention.
“But it’s another streaming service they don’t have to pay for,” Anderson says. “There’s no way we would want to move past the fact that we are a free service. And so many of the other services that we’re talking about have some version of a paywall.”
Over the past year, IMDb TV has seen a 138% increase in viewership, and 62% of its viewers are age 18-49, who spend five and a half hours per week on average on the free streaming service.
“We like the idea that viewers will be surprised that there’s not a monthly subscription for this service,” Pirozzi says. “That is our intention — to surprise people with that level of quality and curation.”