Android TV device owners will be extremely familiar with the issue of Amazon Prime Instant Video. It is not so much of an issue as it is a nonstarter, as Amazon’s Instant Video service on Android TV is literally nonexistent. There is certainly no openly available Android TV app and getting one of the customized apps to work on Android TV is not an easy thing to do thing. Which has been extremely disappointing for a number of Android TV owners, as those who have Prime membership do have access to a large selection of video content and having access to that content would be a massive bonus for the platform.
It has long been understood that there is rivalry between Amazon and Google in general and both companies seems less than eager to promote the services of the other. As a result the battle between the two is much larger than just Instant Video and late last year, Amazon took the battle a little further by removing the option to buy Android TV, Chromecast and Apple TV hardware options from Amazon’s online store. A move which at the time, seemed to be a result of Amazon looking to push sales of their TV option, Fire TV. Which happened to be being released about the same time.
However, earlier this week, Amazon’s CEO, Jeff Bezos took part in an interview/talk as part of the Code Conference event. While the talk centered on everything Amazon is doing, towards the end of the talk Bezos was asked about the decision to remove Chromecast and Apple TV products from Amazon’s e-shelves. Interestingly, Android TV was not one of the options which was referenced in either the question or the answer given by Bezos, although it stands to reason that the answer given would be relevant to Android TV as well, as the Nexus Player was one of those devices that was removed. Either way, the answer provided was that Amazon’s Instant Video was the issue. Amazon wants it on devices and they have had a hard time dealing with select companies (presumably Google and Apple) in agreeing terms and Amazon did not want to sell TV hardware options which do not come with Instant Video available.
Now it does to stand to reason that Amazon would want to push their video service. After all, everyone does want to push their own services. However, there is a significant difference between stopping manufacturers from selling their devices on a site and stopping consumers from being able to use a service without buying their hardware. When it comes to Instant Video, it is definitely more the latter than the former. Over the last year, there has been occasions when an Android TV-version of Instant Video had become available. Namely, when an optimized app was created for Sony's Android TVs was shared as a sideload APK. This was an app which had been designed for Android TV and worked flawlessly on all Android TV devices. However, within days of the APK becoming widely available, the app was suddenly shut down again. Removing the ability for consumers to make use of Instant Video once again on Android TV. Evidently Amazon had agreed some form of licensing deal with Sony for their Android TV devices and wanted to ensure that those who were not paying (Google and Apple etc) could not make use of the service. However, all they did was to make sure that consumers of already-owned devices cannot make use of the service. In a world as new as OTT video and OS-based TV hardware options, these companies should be looking to make sure as many users as possible have access to their services. It is not only good for the service providers but for the industry at large. So while Bezos argues this is a matter which should "stay private" between them and Google, they should realize that it is the consumers being affected by this. Android TV and Amazon Instant Video would both be better offerings if they were compatible.
Of course, for those who absolutely have to have Instant Video access on their Android TV device, there are ways and means. You can sideload a copy of the normal Android Instant Video app and while it is not optimized for Android TV, it is somewhat usable. Although, you will have to sideload the main Amazon app as well, as the Instant Video app requires the device to be able to authorize your account from the main app. Likewise, you can always cast content from your device. Not a built-in Google Cast feature, but cast the entire screen of your device. Neither are great options but they are currently the best that most Android TV devices owners have to choose from.