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Prime Video’s ad tier is a bigger downgrade than we thought

Published Feb 12th, 2024 9:31PM EST
The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power premieres on September 1.
Image: Prime Video

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It’s been two weeks since Amazon’s Prime Video streaming service began serving ads to users who wouldn’t fork over an additional $2.99 per month to go ad-free. Well, it turns out that the ad-supported tier is an even bigger downgrade than Amazon let on, as Prime Video users who fail to upgrade also lose access to Dolby Vision and Dolby Atmos.

On Sunday, German outlet 4K Filme (via Ars Technica) was the first to realize that Prime Video with ads doesn’t support Dolby Vision HDR or Dolby Atmos surround sound technology. Unless you pay for the ad-free subscription, you’re stuck with HDR10+ and Dolby Digital 5.1.

4K Filme watched Prime Video’s ad tier on TVs from three manufacturers (LG, Samsung, and Sony), and the results were the same each time. Once they upgraded to the ad-free plan, they regained access to Dolby Vision and Atmos.

According to Forbes, the same is true of TCL TVs. The site created a new Prime Video account and jumped between it and a subscription without ads. The Dolby Vision and Dolby Atmos pop-up boxes never appeared on content on the account with ads.

The most frustrating part of this discovery is that Amazon never clarified that Prime Video users who chose not to upgrade to the ad-free tier would receive lower-quality audio and video. Forbes even explains that “the Prime Video header information for [Jack Ryan] that appears on the with-ads basic account shows Dolby Vision and Dolby Atmos among the supported technical features – yet when you start to play the episode, neither feature is delivered to the TV.”

If you were hoping this was just a technical glitch that Amazon may fix in the coming weeks, we have bad news for you. Forbes says that the company has since confirmed that the behavior is intended, and the Dolby features aren’t coming back any time soon.

Jacob Siegal
Jacob Siegal Associate Editor

Jacob Siegal is Associate Editor at BGR, having joined the news team in 2013. He has over a decade of professional writing and editing experience, and helps to lead our technology and entertainment product launch and movie release coverage.

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