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Amazon Prime Video Comes to Apple TV

Yes, Virginia, there is an Amazon Prime Video app on the Apple TV. You’ll have to search for it in the App Store because it’s so new that it’s not yet featured anywhere.

Usually, I’d insert something snarky here about how no, this app is not available for the third-generation Apple TV and never will be. But in a surprising move, Amazon has also released Amazon Prime Video for the third-generation Apple TV, as demonstrated by Doug Miller on Twitter! You have to wonder how long Amazon has been sitting on this app.

Signing In to Amazon Prime Video — Once you’ve installed it on your Apple TV, you can browse without logging in, but to watch anything, you’ll need to sign in to your Amazon account, which you can do either directly on the Apple TV or by registering the app online. In the latter case, you visit a special Amazon Web site, log in to your account, and enter an onscreen code.

It’s unusual for two-step verification to work with direct logins, but happily it works with either login approach. On most platforms, if you have two-step verification turned on, you have to register the device online to activate it. (We recommend two-step verification for your Amazon account. Here are Amazon’s instructions for enabling it.)

Alas, signing in directly on the Apple TV isn’t the smoothest experience if you use two-step authentication. The smart way to sign into accounts on the Apple TV, besides online activation, is to use the Apple TV Remote app (or Control Center widget), copying your username and password from a password manager like 1Password and pasting them into the Remote app. Unfortunately, Amazon prevents this by switching away from the keyboard for the two-step verification code — you have to enter it by moving the cursor around the screen. That’s frustrating enough, but worse, you have only a few seconds before the code changes.

Ideally, Amazon would let you enter the two-step verification code via the Apple TV Remote app’s keyboard. For now, I recommend the online registration approach.

Using Amazon Prime Video — After you sign in, the Amazon Prime Video app looks pretty much as you’d expect, with a set of links across the top. Search is most prominent, followed by a link to the main Home screen for browsing. Then it lists various content collections (including Originals, Movies, TV, and Kids), purchased items in Video Library, things you’ve marked for later in Watchlist, and Settings.

Although it offers access to content you’ve bought from Amazon on other platforms, you cannot purchase content directly from Amazon within the Apple TV app.

Individual shows line up in horizontally scrolling lists organized by various categories, much like the Netflix app, and clicking any one of them displays more information about the show and lets you play it.

It isn’t always obvious how you add a title to your watchlist. Movies, like the above screenshot, provide a simple Add to Watchlist button. But for TV shows, you have to navigate to its season list and then press and hold the touchpad to add the season to your watchlist. Why not just put a button there?

Amazon Prime Video supports both system-wide search and the TV app, which leaves Netflix as the only major streaming service still holding out, but there are bugs. Since the Amazon Prime Video app supports both content included for free with your Prime subscription and content you can purchase from Amazon, Apple’s content-management framework gets confused.

For example, if I search for the movie “My Cousin Vinny,” click the Open In button, and choose Open in Prime Video, the Apple TV takes me to a useless listing. That movie isn’t available via Prime, nor can I purchase it on the Apple TV. Also, it was apparently directed by Fox, Fox, Fox, Fox (ad infinitum).

Rough edges like this show why Apple and Amazon butted heads for so long. The fact that Amazon mixes free (for Prime subscribers) video with paid video conflicts with Apple’s approach of taking a 30 percent cut of every digital product you buy. On other platforms, the Amazon Prime Video app is designed, like everything Amazon does, to encourage you to buy more stuff from Amazon. But on the Apple TV, Amazon can’t sell anything without giving Apple its cut. So searches will find movies and TV shows you can buy,
but only if you switch out to a Web browser.

From the user’s perspective, it might have been better if Amazon had designed the app to ignore movies and TV shows for sale, showing only Prime video and purchased titles. But from Amazon’s viewpoint, showing titles that can be bought elsewhere can only drive sales, even if it won’t be as effective as if the content could be acquired directly on the Apple TV.

Regardless, it’s good to have Amazon Prime Video on the Apple TV at long last. It makes the Apple TV feel like a significantly more complete platform.

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