If you’ve booted up an Amazon Fire device recently, you might have noticed a curious new addition to your main menu, one that advertises a service for free movies and TV shows. IMDb TV is Amazon’s ad-supported streaming service, and if you’re a Prime subscriber, it’s worth a closer look. Here’s everything you need to know about IMDb TV before getting started.
What is IMDb TV?
IMDb is short for the Internet Movie Database, a glorious online encyclopedia for TV shows and movies that offers everything from cast breakdowns to ratings, fan reviews, and production details for pretty much every title you might want to Google. The site has more than 5 million titles in its database. While it originally operated as a fan-operated site, not unlike Wikipedia, it’s been an Amazon subsidiary since 1998.
Launched in early January 2019, IMDb TV is a free ad-supported service for streaming movies and TV shows in the U.S. It operates as a channel on Fire devices—Fire Stick, Fire TV Cube, Fire tablets, etc.—or if you’re a laptop or personal computer user, you can stream directly from the IMDb site.
How does IMDb TV work?
If you already have Amazon Prime and a Fire device, all you have to do is download the IMDb TV channel. Your Prime account will serve as your login. (If you don’t already have Amazon Prime, you can learn more here.) If you want to watch in a browser on IMDb’s website, you’ll need to create an IMDb account, but it’s free to do so, and you can join using your Amazon account. Once you’re ready to watch, you just select a title, hit play, and sit back. Users watching on Prime can even use Amazon’s X-Ray feature to track songs, actors, and trivia from titles during viewings.
IMDb users can save content to a personal watchlist to save for later on the site, but sadly, your saved programs don’t transfer over to Prime from the website. This used to be a problem, but Amazon has made IMDb TV easier to search in the Prime app. When it launched, the service was mixed into the standard Prime menus. Now it has its own channel, letting you quickly browse movies and TV shows by genre. You can look through Action, Drama, Horror, Recently Added, Popular, and other categories to find content. This update makes IMDb TV one of the best ad-supported streaming services.
That’s thanks in large part to the restraint with which IMDb TV handles ads. While watching movies, I experienced on average only five ad breaks totaling less than five minutes. There were exceptions; some movies had far more ads, specifically The Adventures of Baron Munchausen, which had 12 ads during its two-hour runtime. Still, those ads added up to less than 11 minutes.
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Hourlong TV shows feature four ads per episode, while half-hour shows feature only two. Just like with the movies, the ad breaks during IMDb TV shows run 30 to 60 seconds apiece, and they never repeated. Best of all, these ads are volume-matched to what you’re watching, unlike the ugly, loud surprises that some free services offer.
Another selling point: The picture quality on IMDb TV is incredible. While I was watching Drive for this review, there were times I wondered if Prime was delivering an unannounced 4K picture. My Roku TV doesn’t state what my picture quality is, but TV provided breathtaking clarity. Similarly, Fringe and Gilligan’s Island both looked better than ever. Often free streaming picture quality is lacking, but IMDb TV’s crisp images kept me coming back, even after this finishing this review.
IMDb TV shows
The TV selection on IMDb TV is small yet mighty, offering Heroes, Fringe, The Bachelor, Kitchen Nightmares, and more. The TV section focuses mostly on reality shows, police procedurals, and sci-fi series at the moment, but every option has multiple seasons to enjoy. IMDb TV also includes a few original series, often focused on behind-the-scenes movie trivia. Casting Calls, for example, tells the stories behind actors who were almost cast in films like Batman or Jurassic Park.
IMDb TV movies
IMDb TV’s movie selection can give some paid services a run for their money. Everything from classic dramas like A Raisin in the Sun, violent romances like True Romance, or hard-boiled crime like Drive await. Looking to laugh? Try So I Married an Axe Murderer, the surreal Adaptation, or the heartbreaking Southern magic of Junebug. Drama fans can dig into Legends of the Fall, Foxcatcher, and The Fisher King. They’re also currently the first ad-supported streaming service with the Oscar-winning La La Land.
Drawing from decades of classic titles, IMDb TV never stops surprising with new movies to watch. Often Netflix’s myopic focus on original content leaves its movie listings feeling like a cutout DVD bin. IMDb TV has a refreshing amount of stuff you’d actually want to watch, especially for classic movie buffs looking to fill in the blanks. You should watch John Candy’s Who is Harry Crumb? Ever see Glory, St. Elmo’s Fire, or The Adventures of Baron Munchausen? You can correct that right now for free.
Documentaries, horror, sci-fi, comedy, action: Every genre is waiting. There’s even a nice chunk of family films, from Monster House to Stuart Little, for kids of all ages to enjoy. It’s wonderful to see a movie service this focused on classics instead of today’s latest direct-to-video content.
Is IMDb TV worth trying?
IMDb TV has quickly found a place in my streaming rotation. Even with its occasionally frustrating navigation problems, the quality of options and well-behaved ads will overshadow any grievances. IMDb TV’s ads are less annoying than Hulu’s, and I pay to watch Hulu.
As paid services become more focused on owning the content they stream, catalog titles have taken a backseat. That leaves a massive opening for other services to fill in that gap, and IMDb TV is running with that opportunity. At launch, IMDb TV is impressive for a free service. Hopefully, Amazon gives IMDb TV a special section within the Prime app, opening up its full potential. Either way, I can’t wait to check in next month and see what new content gets added.
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