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Amazon Prime Video makes Dolby Vision, Atmos a paid upgrade

A promotion to upgrade to an ad-free subscription on Amazon Prime Video.
Simon Cohen / Digital Trends

I have bad news if you’re an Amazon Prime Video subscriber who hasn’t opted for the company’s new ad-free tier. Not only are you starting to see ads before you get to binge the latest season of Reacher, but you also won’t be getting the show streamed in Dolby’s most advanced formats — Dolby Vision and Dolby Atmos.

First reported by German website 4KFilme, then corroborated by Forbes in the U.K., it seems that Amazon has removed Dolby Vision and Dolby Atmos from its base streaming tier (which became ad-supported on January 29), making the formats exclusive to those who opt-in to the ad-free premium subscription, which costs an additional $3 per month.

While Dolby Vision isn’t supported by all HDR TVs (Samsung’s TVs have never included it), many experts consider the dynamic HDR format to be superior in terms of contrast, color, detail, and brightness when compared to HDR10, which is supported by all HDR TV models.

Similarly, Dolby Atmos can provide a more immersive soundtrack, largely through the addition of overhead “height” sound effects, resulting in a three-dimensional experience on sound systems that are equipped to reproduce it.

Reacher on Amazon Prime Video.
Despite displaying the Dolby Atmos flag, season 2 of Reacher only streams in Dolby Digital 5.1 for ad-supported Amazon Prime Video memberships. Simon Cohen / Digital Trends

Digital Trends can confirm that free subscribers that stream content labeled as Dolby Atmos are only getting Dolby Digital 5.1, and titles like The Lord of The Rings: The Rings of Power, which were previously available in Dolby Vision and Dolby Atmos to all Prime subscribers, are now only available to those with an ad-free account. Regular Prime members can only stream the show in HDR10 and Dolby Digital 5.1.

Reporting for Forbes, John Archer says that while Dolby Vision is no longer available within the ad-supported tier, HDR10+ remains an option. HDR10+ is a license-free alternative to Dolby Vision, which Amazon supports on nearly all of its content.

It’s not yet clear why Amazon has made this change, however some have suggested that Dolby’s licensing fees may have played a role. It doesn’t appear any efforts were made to inform existing Prime members of the new limitations either via email or through the official Amazon blog.

Despite the lack of communication, the move isn’t unprecedented. Netflix has long kept Dolby Vision and Dolby Atmos restricted to its most expensive subscription tier. Other streaming services, like Apple TV+ and Disney+ provide these formats to all subscribers, regardless of price.

Digital Trends reached out to Amazon for comment, but instead of an explanation, a spokesperson simply provided a confirmation of what we already knew:

“All Prime members get the benefit of enhanced streaming quality, including UHD, HDR10 and HDR10+, where available. These streaming features and high-definition viewing capabilities, as well as Dolby Vision and Dolby Atmos, are also available on select titles for Prime Video Ad Free customers.”