Some content is blocked and viewing apps aren’t easily available, but streaming service is live.
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Top Gear host Jeremy Clarkson set video streaming fans’ hearts aflutter last week with a series of tweets announcing the global availability of his new exclusive Amazon show, The Grand Tour.
In doing so, he seemed to let the cat out of the bag as to Amazon’s plans to expand its video streaming service:
So. People of Ireland, Canada, Australia and pretty well everywhere else. You WILL be able to watch the Grand Tour. Amazon has gone global.
— Jeremy Clarkson (@JeremyClarkson) November 16, 2016
The company has yet to officially confirm a Canadian launch – or any of the 200-plus countries Clarkson promised for that matter – but a soft launch here appears to have already happened.
Canadians who subscribe to Amazon Prime, the company’s express delivery service, can now stream much of its video library. There are some catches, though.
For one thing, the content needs to be accessed from either Amazon’s U.S. or U.K. stores, so Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk rather than Amazon.ca.
The bigger obstacle is that some listed shows and movies aren’t yet available thanks to rights issues, but you won’t know which until you click play.
Amazon exclusive originals such as The Grand Tour and The Man in the High Castle, for example, are good to go. Titles that are currently licensed to other streaming services, such as Amazon’s Transparent or USA Network’s Mr. Robot – both currently on Shomi – are not.
One other problem is that the easiest way, if it can be called that, to watch Amazon Prime Video in Canada is through a web browser. It’s not a huge problem if you use Chrome and have a Chromecast or have other ways of connecting your screen to your TV, but it is inelegant.
The Amazon Prime Video app for phones and tablets, a much simpler way to play the content, is not yet available in the Apple or Google app stores.
There are ways around this issue, but they involve switching app store country settings, which can get messy. It’s also possible to get access to the blocked content, such as Transparent and so on, through a virtual private network (VPN). Neither situation is ideal, but it does all work.
All these obstacles may be very temporary, given that Shomi’s closure at the end of November is just days away. Amazon may just be waiting for the axe to finally fall before officially launching a new streaming competitor into Canada, complete with apps and a fuller content catalog.
Robert Lantos, owner of Serendipity Point Films and former Alliance Communications chief communications, believes that to be the case. “Amazon is coming in any day,” he told BNN last week.
He’s probably right, given that Amazon is spending an estimated $3 billion (U.S.) on original content this year to compete with Netflix. The only way the company is going to get a return on that outlay is by massively expanding its subscriber base.