Amazon Fire TV expands live TV features, adds Alexa support for live content

Amazon is rolling out a new experience for its Fire TV platform that puts more focus on subscription-free streaming and other live content. The company today announced several new services are being integrated into its suite of Live features, including Xumo and its own IMDb TV and Amazon news app. The company also soon plans to add Plex, it notes.

All four of the services are available for free with ads and don’t require a subscription, Amazon says. These channels and their content will appear in Fire TV’s Live tab in the “On Now” rows, as well as in the Universal Channel Guide on the Fire TV app.

With the additions, Amazon says there are now over 400 live streaming channels from across 20 providers that can be accessed from Fire TV’s live channel guide — including services like YouTube TV, Sling TV, Tubi, Pluto TV, Philo, Prime Video Channels, Prime Video Live Events (like Thursday Night Football), and more.

Amazon also notes that more than 200 of those channels are available for free with ads, and don’t need a subscription to watch.

Free, live streaming content is becoming a battleground for both Amazon and Roku, the top two streaming media platforms in the U.S. But they’re taking different approaches to the format.

Amazon’s section showcasing free, live content has become more of a part of its overall Fire TV interface, instead of a separate channel you have to launch. This speaks to Amazon’s design philosophy with Fire TV, whose interface largely resembles that of a streaming service.

“We’ve always taken a content-forward approach when designing Fire TV. When you turn on your TV, you’re going to see shows, movies, and sports — not just rows of apps,” said VP & GM of Amazon Fire TV, Sandeep Gupta. “This philosophy extends to our approach to live content. We’re continuing to invest heavily in Live TV and so are our content partners. We’re expanding that today with the addition of new integrations, Alexa capabilities, and enhanced content discovery mechanisms,” he added.

Meanwhile, Roku offers its own hub with always-on free movies and TV shows, called The Roku Channel, which helps to serve as a starting point for cord cutters who are looking for something to watch after they’ve ditched traditional pay TV. But unlike Fire TV, Roku’s design is, in fact,  “rows of apps.” This makes its interface simple to use and less cluttered — something many people seem to prefer. Here, The Roku Channel is just another app to launch, not a part of the Roku interface.

Roku also makes The Roku Channel available online and as a standalone mobile app, just like other free streaming services. And this week, it integrated most of The Roku Channel’s free content with its main website, in order to reach more consumers.

Separately, Fire TV offers its own app, but limits itself to live content, not on-demand, ad-supported shows and movies.

In addition to today’s newly announced live TV integrations, Amazon also says its live TV programs are now Alexa-enabled.

That means you can say things like “Alexa, play Good Morning America” or “Alexa, play the Seahawks game,” to launch a specific live TV program by name. This will work with the Alexa Voice Remote, on the Fire TV Cube, and with Fire TVs paired with an Echo device.

Live TV programs will also appear in the “App Peak” (hover) feature on the newly updated Fire TV interface. This feature will show you what’s on a given channel when you hover over it in the main navigation, and works on Fire TV Stick (3rd gen.) and Fire TV Stick Lite, for the time being.

As a result of its expansions and live TV integrations — not to mention the pandemic that’s kept people at home for entertainment — Amazon says that engagement with live streaming apps on Fire TV has more than doubled in the last 12 months, up by over 130%.

Amazon says the new features are rolling out today to Fire TV devices.

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