Amazon is trying to make the Fire TV work better for watching live programming — but it’s starting in a very small way. Over the past few weeks, Amazon has rolled out channel guides and an accompanying feature called On Now, which shows what’s currently playing on supported networks. And as of today, Amazon is also adding the ability to pull up live channels through Alexa.
Unfortunately, at launch, the list of supported networks is really small: just channels from HBO, Showtime, Starz, and Cinemax. And even if you have access to them, you might not be able to use these features, because you have to subscribe to those services through Amazon Channels — a service hidden within Prime Video that lets you subscribe to cable channels through your Amazon account. That means if you have an outstanding HBO Now or HBO Go subscription, you’re out of luck.
That’s all pretty confusing, and it’s not clear if Amazon will be able to change it anytime soon, since most streaming services don’t let you tap into live programming. Amazon does say that it plans to expand the number of supported channels though, but presumably they’ll still be through Amazon Channels only for the foreseeable future.
If you own a TV set with Fire TV software built-in, all of this might sound familiar to you: channel guides and On Now have already been supported on TV sets with a Fire TV interface, which they use to show local listings if you hook up a digital antenna. So the big deal here is that Amazon seems to be trying to expand this to digital services, but clearly it’s off to a slow start.