Amazon’s costs for video and music content last year hit $13 billion, up around 18%, representing a slowdown from its spending binge in 2020.
The ecommerce giant disclosed total video and music expense for 2021 in its annual SEC filing Friday. That total is compared with $11 billion the year prior, which was up roughly 40% versus 2019.
On Thursday, Amazon announced a rate hike for its Prime membership program in the U.S., which is rising from $119 to $139 per year (up 17%), citing benefits including a stepped-up investment in “high-quality digital entertainment” — including a tripling of TV shows and movies introduced on Prime Video since 2018 — as well as rising wages and transportation costs. Overall for Q4, Amazon missed Wall Street estimates on revenue but blew past earnings forecasts.
Amazon’s total video and music expense includes licensing and production costs associated with content offered on Prime Videos, and costs associated with digital subscriptions and sold or rented content.
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“We obtain video content, inclusive of episodic television and movies, and music content for customers through licensing agreements that have a wide range of licensing provisions including both fixed and variable payment schedules,” Amazon noted in the 10-K filing.
Total capitalized costs of video (which the company said is primarily released content) and music were $10.7 billion as of the end of 2021 — up more than 50% from $6.8 billion a year earlier. The weighted average remaining life of Amazon’s capitalized video content is 2.6 years.
In May 2021, Amazon inked a deal to acquire MGM for $8.45 billion in cash, including the studio’s debt. The agreement is pending regulatory approvals; Amazon did not provide an update on the status of the MGM deal in the 10-K.
For the full year 2021, Amazon’s subscription revenue was $31.8 billion, up 26% year over year. That segment includes annual and monthly fees associated with Amazon Prime, as well as digital video, audiobook, digital music, ebooks and other subscription services (excluding AWS).
Amazon’s Q4 earnings report was its first to break out advertising sales, which totaled $9.72 billion for the quarter (up 32%) and $31.2 billion for full-year 2021. The segment includes sales of advertising services to sellers, vendors, publishers, authors and other parties, through programs such as sponsored ads, display and video advertising.
In announcing Q4 earnings, Amazon called out original series “The Wheel of Time,” starring Rosamund Pike, which scored as the No. 1 original series in Nielsen’s rankings the week of its premiere (week of Nov. 15-21), as U.S. customers viewed an estimated 1.16 billion minutes of the series across its first three episodes.
Other recent series premieres on Prime Video include comedy “Harlem,” adult animated comedy “Fairfax,” and the final season of sci-fi fan favorite “The Expanse.” Upcoming original shows include the first season of “Reacher,” based on “Killing Floor” by Lee Child, will be released Feb. 4, and “Diabolical,” an animated spinoff of hit superhero spoof “The Boys” set to premiere later in 2022.
On the film front, Amazon Studios’ “Being the Ricardos,” starring Nicole Kidman and Javier Bardem and directed by Aaron Sorkin, and “The Tender Bar, starring Ben Affleck and directed by George Clooney, premiered in theaters and on Prime Video in Q4. “Hotel Transylvania: Transformania,” the fourth and final installment of the animated family franchise that features Selena Gomez and Andy Samberg, premiered on Prime Video in the quarter.
Amazon’s IMDb TV free streaming service launched “Judy Justice,” starring TV’s famous family court judge Judy Sheindlin. The series is Amazon Studios’ largest-ever episode order to date for an original series with 120 episodes, and its first series with a daily release schedule.
Meanwhile, Amazon Music in December presented Kanye West’s first headlining concert in five years, with special guest Drake, exclusively on the Amazon Music Twitch Channel, Prime Video and the Amazon Music app. The edited version of the benefit concert by West (aka Ye) excluded Drake’s entire 12-song set in the middle of the show.
(Pictured above: Rosamund Pike and Daniel Henney in Amazon’s “The Wheel of Time”)