Is Amazon Sabotaging Prime Video Performance on Roku? Report

Is Amazon intentionally downgrading the performance of its Prime Video app on Roku devices in an effort to drive Roku users to the Amazon Fire TV ecosystem?

That’s the incendiary charge put forth by enthusiast news site Interesting Engineering, which cites a litany of user forum complaints as evidence that there’s something fishy going on between the two Silicon Valley tech rivals. Amazon has dismissed this claim as being rather silly.

Indeed, Interesting Engineering's evidence falls strictly into the circumstantial and anecdotal category. But here's the case:

As the news site notes, on the Roku user forum, there are multiple consumer complaints about Prime Video performance on Roku connected TVs ranging from pixelation to repeated crashing of the app.

“It seems that after the movie runs for about 10 minutes, the quality gradually improves, but not as good as other channels,” wrote a Roku user. "if you pause, the poor quality returns. We have tried everything. Why is this is never not a problem with Netflix or Hulu?”

Similar experiences are conveyed in Amazon’s digital device forum: “I have noticed a huge drop in video streaming quality,” wrote a poster in August. “The video streaming is very blurry. I currently have a 100 Mbps fiber connection. At first i thought it was at my end, but tested it over various devices but to no avail. I have also tested the streaming via 4G on my mobile provider.”

Interesting Engineering also cited complaints on Reddit.

On its own forums, Amazon does offer advice to bereaved users, instructing them to restart the device and make sure their app is up to date, among other things.

“Amazon is in denial!” wrote one Roku forum poster.

Amazon didn't respond to Interesting Engineering. But an individual close to the company told Next TV via email this morning that there's absolutely nothing to the report and that the only reason Amazon didn't respond to Interesting Engineering is that the company didn't want to legitimize it.

Indeed, a compilation of anecdotal complaints does not a tech conspiracy make.But it is notable that Roku is Amazon’s top rival in the area of OTT device ecosystem, with Roku ranking as the market leader in the U.S., and Amazon Fire TV leading on a global basis.

And Amazon has somewhat of a history in regard to disputes with major Silicon Valley rivals in the area of streaming video.

For example, Amazon and Google only mended fences last year following a cold war in which the Prime Video app was kept out of the Google Play store, and devices like Google’s Chromecast weren’t available for purchase through Amazon. 

Daniel Frankel

Daniel Frankel is the managing editor of Next TV, an internet publishing vertical focused on the business of video streaming. A Los Angeles-based writer and editor who has covered the media and technology industries for more than two decades, Daniel has worked on staff for publications including E! Online, Electronic Media, Mediaweek, Variety, paidContent and GigaOm. You can start living a healthier life with greater wealth and prosperity by following Daniel on Twitter today!