Billy Butcher holding a flashlight in the dark in a scene from Gen V.
Photo: Amazon Studios

By February 2024, You’ll Be Watching Ads on Amazon Prime Video

Updated January 2, 2024 to confirm pricing for Amazon Prime Video’s ad-free tier in Canada.

Remember the days when signing up for a streaming subscription was attractive because it meant you’d no longer have to contend with ads? That’s slowly no longer becoming the case, unless you want to pay a premium, that is. Amazon is joining the mix with the announcement in September that it would be including ads with its TV shows and movies by early 2024. That day is almost here. There is an option to pay more to eliminate ads, though. Here’s what you need to know.

When Will There Be Ads With Amazon Prime Video Content?

Reacher on Amazon Prime Video
Photo: Amazon Studios

Amazon Prime subscribers in the U.S. have already received e-mails confirming that ads will start appearing in TV shows and movies streamed via Amazon Prime Video starting January 29, 2024.

In Canada, the change will happen a week later on February 5, 2024. Some time prior to this date, Canadians can expect to receive an e-mail advising them of the change and the option to upgrade to the ad-free tier if they so choose.

What Will The New Ad-Free Tier Cost?

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In the U.S., pricing has been confirmed for the new ad-free tier to be an additional $2.99 per month. Currently, an Amazon Prime subscription stateside is $14.99/mo. or $139/yr., which also includes other Amazon Prime benefits, including fast and free same-day shipping, access to Amazon Music, exclusive access to Amazon Prime Day shopping deals, and more. But there’s also the option to get access to only Amazon Prime Video for $8.99/mo. This increase would bring the cost up to $10.99/mo. for the standalone subscription or $16.99/mo. for Amazon Prime with Amazon Prime Video. It’s unclear how much the discounted annual price would be for those who are willing to lock in for the full year.

In Canada, a base Amazon Prime subscription costs $9.99/mo. or $99/yr. (in Canadian bucks, of course). The ad-free tier will also cost an additional $2.99 per month. Amazon Prime subscribers received an e-mail confirming this along with a link to upgrade if desired. There is no Prime Video exclusive subscription option in Canada, so it’s all or nothing for Canucks.

Amazon offers reduced fee student plans in both Canada and the U.S. It’s unclear how these will be impacted by fee changes and if so, by how much they would go up. There’s also no word on if there will be an ad-free option for students as well. Currently in Canada, students with verification get Amazon Prime, including Prime Video, for $4.99/mo. with Stack TV currently offering a six-month free trial period.

How Many Ads Will There Be?

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When Amazon originally announced the news of advertisements being added to the service back in September, the company confirmed that it would aim to have “meaningfully fewer ads than linear TV and other streaming TV providers.” There are no further details beyond that, so we won’t know how frequent nor how long ad breaks will be until they start appearing during a one-hour TV show episode or two-hour movie. Canadians can get an idea of how much of a disruption it is once the feature begins rolling out in the U.S., with the expectation that it will be similar here as well.

Is Amazon Prime Video Without Ads Worth The New “Upgrade?”

Midge from The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel season 5.
Photo: Philippe Antonello / Amazon Prime Video

Now comes the question: is it worth paying to upgrade? Subscribers have had to ask themselves the same question with many other streaming services that have made similar switches recently. Netflix launched its Basic with Ads tier this year while simultaneously increasing prices for others, and Disney+ and Hulu have also launched ad tiers.

For those with a full Amazon Prime subscription, the upgrade fee might be worthwhile. You can consider it an upgrade for all the services that are included in Amazon Prime. That’s shipping, Amazon Music, Amazon cloud storage, and more. It’s a much bigger pill to swallow, however, if you’re only subscribed to Amazon Prime Video. With that said, such an option isn’t even available to Canadians anyway.

Comparatively in Canada, Netflix is $16.49/mo. for the Standard plan ($5.99/mo. for Basic with Ads and access to a limited library – the streamer did away with the Basic Plan without ads six months ago), Disney+ has just gone up to $11.99/mo. or $7.99/mo. for Disney+ Standard With Ads, and Crave is $14.99/mo. for the Standard with Ads plan or $4.99/mo. for Basic with Ads (currently on promotion but regularly $9.99/mo.) Apple TV+ recently went up as well to $12.99/mo. It does not have a tiered system (yet) but you can combine it with other Apple services via Apple One, which also went up in price. All but Apple TV+ offer premium tiers as well with things like 4K content, immersive audio, offline downloads, and more (Apple TV+’s base subscription includes access to 4K content). Amazon Prime Video does offer 4K content, which is included with its base and, up until now, only subscription tier. (It’s presumed that content quality, offline downloads, and other features will remain the same whether you have the ad-free or ad tier of Prime Video).

For the Amazon Prime Video ad-free upgrade north of the border, this would bring the price from $9.99/mo. to $12.98/mo. Thus, Amazon Prime Video without ads would be priced in the middle of other services. It would be more than Disney+’s ad-free tier and less than both Crave and Netflix if you want to watch either without ads. That’s still relatively reasonable considering all the other benefits you get with it. Amazon Prime Video has a pretty solid selection of original TV shows and movies as well as library content, though it might not yet compare to Netflix’s high-profile titles and Crave’s access to the entire HBO library.

It really isn’t about price in this case, though. What’s most irritating is the fact that there’s an ad-free tier at all. This goes not only for Amazon, but for all the streaming services. The point of streaming was to pay a subscription for the luxury of not having to deal with ads. Which leads to the question, why are there ads at all?

Should There Be Ads?

Billy Butcher holding a flashlight in the dark in a scene from Gen V.
Photo: Amazon Studios

A year ago when Netflix announced Netflix Basics With Ads, I argued that it could actually be a good thing for the company. The justification was that with a much larger library of quality content available through the service versus when it initially launched, it’s a compromise. Those who want access to the growing list of premium award-winning content can still get that at a reasonably higher price, while those who appreciate the content but can’t afford or don’t want to pay for the luxury of an ad-free experience can revert to the “old way.” Yes, that means the way we used to watch television before cutting the cord.

But as every streaming service starts doing the same thing, it’s evident that we’re headed backwards. The promise was no more commercials. Quality content you can watch at your leisure, anywhere and on any device. Entire seasons of shows would be released at once. Even the third promise is slowing disappearing as streamers are moving towards the very episode-a-week-ending-on-a-cliffhanger format it roasted network television about.

Where did we go wrong? We cut the cord, we paid less for seemingly limitless access. More competition entered the fray and we found ourselves paying for multiple services instead of multiple channels. As more quality content was released and started being produced by the streamers, pricing went up. Then services like Amazon started offering add-on channels, again, just like cable.

In defense of the streamers, even if you were to sign up for the Netflix, Disney+, Amazon Prime Video, Apple TV+, and Crave tiers without ads, it would still cost you less than you probably used to pay for linear TV, especially if you wanted channels like HBO and Showtime. Heck, it might still even still be less even with the highest tier packages from these services.

But that still brings us full circle back to the initial frustration: what happened to paying for access and no ads? Something has to pay for these streamers to continue to crank out fabulous shows from their in-house studios, and secure partnerships and licensing. That was supposed to be our subscription fees, but it seems no matter how often and how much they are raised, it isn’t enough. The old way that apparently wasn’t working seems to be the only way that can work. Just over the Internet now.

So, what was the point of cutting the cord in the first place? TV does now has a much cleaner interface, no matter which streamer you use. You can access it just about anywhere, from your phone while riding the subway to your computer while taking a break at work or your big screen TV at home. You don’t need a satellite dish or a cable box. That’s pretty darn compelling and a long way from where we used to be. But in the end, streaming is just the same wolf in more Internet-savvy, slicker sheep’s clothing.

That said, as long as the quality of shows we’re getting from these services continues to make it worth it, we’ll pay up. And now, an entirely new generation of viewers will understand once again what it’s like to rush to the bathroom during the “break” and wait a week to see what happens next in your favourite show. Times, they are revolving.