Amazon Set To Take On Netflix & Hulu?

Dave Zatz —  January 30, 2011 — 16 Comments

Looks like Amazon is about to amp up their video-on-demand service with an unlimited streaming tier. At least that’s what we’re left to infer from the one Amazon customer whose account appears to have accidentally received early access the service:

Your Amazon Prime membership now includes unlimited, commercial-free, instant streaming of 5,000 movies and TV shows at no additional cost.

As far as I know, no one has yet corroborated Engadget’s source’s sighting of the service – which seems to go by “Prime Instant Videos.” And, last night, I did spend good deal of time digging around Amazon trying to turn this thing up… but obviously came up empty. In fact, at some point, E’s guy lost access his access too.

As an irregular, although current, Amazon Prime member ($79/yr, free 2 day shipping), a perk like this would keep me in the fold on an annual basis. Heck, I’d even pay more and dump my Hulu and/or Netflix subscriptions. Assuming Amazon intends to deliver high quality streaming to locations other than a computer-based web browser. Like say an iPad. Or Kindle 4.

16 responses to Amazon Set To Take On Netflix & Hulu?

  1. “Assuming Amazon intends to deliver high quality streaming”

    Well, Lawler’s report said that Amazon was throttling the service at 480 lines, so “high quality” isn’t something one should assume will be there even if Amazon decides to genuinely launch…


    As always, my rule is that low quality video streaming’s pricing point will approach free. All the pricing power is in HD.

  2. I wonder if this service would work over current Amazon VOD devices like the Roku and many Blu-ray players? I would assume so.

  3. Chucky, yep I saw that. (And exchanged a few emails with Richard last night. As I wanted to reverse engineer the URLs, but apparently they only worked in this one dude’s account while it was active.) But as a service that’s yet to be released, I’m not ready to pass judgement. This could very well be the service, or it could be it just now or maybe the first 9 months. Who knows. Also, 480p is suitable for iPhone viewing from the gym… At a television, though, we’d obviously want higher/better.

    Joel, it very well could work with Amazon streaming hardware like Roku. However, TiVo’s implementation utilizes (progressive) downloads which is a different animal. And we’ve yet to see a mobile streaming client.

  4. Given that I’m already an Amazon Prime subscriber, I’d love to see this service brought to either the TiVoHD (and higher) or the Sony PS3, both devices which are currently connected to my TV set.

  5. “But as a service that’s yet to be released, I’m not ready to pass judgement. This could very well be the service, or it could be it just now or maybe the first 9 months. But who knows.”

    I think one can already pass judgment just by extrapolating from existing business models.

    If Netflix can’t deliver HD for $96/yr (other than indies, docs, foreigns, and older seasons of a few TV series), than it’s hard to imagine that Amazon can deliver HD at whatever portion of the $80/yr for Prime that doesn’t go towards 2 day shipping.

    In other words, Amazon simply can’t acquire HD streaming rights to popular content at that pricing point, any more than Netflix can.

    “Also, 480p is suitable for iPhone viewing from the gym”

    No doubt. There will be a low-priced cornucopia of handheld suitable video coming down the pike.

  6. Unless Amazon’s business model isn’t selling streams, but using them to lure you to the site to purchase physical goods…

  7. I’m an Amazon Prime member who uses both Amazon VOD and Netflix extensively. If Amazon makes this move, it will be a very nice benefit, but the pricing is unrealistic from a corporate standpoint–unless Amazon approaches this as a limited promotion.

    The throttling of picture quality down to SD wouldn’t make much difference if Amazon supported iPad’s and iPod’s with its VOD service, but it does not. Also, Netflix’s VOD is still often SD although there are some HD offerings, so going with an SD offering would at least let Amazon compete on a more even footing with Netflix.

    All in all, I will celebrate if this happens, but I’m pretty skeptical.

  8. I would love to see this subscription service come to fruition. As revolutionary as Netflix’s service has been, I think most people would agree that what is desperately needed is a direct competitor (I don’t see Hulu Plus as a direct competitor; as it is now they are more complementary). In the long run, no one wins if there is only one real player in a market. With that said however, if Amazon VoD is really going to compete, for starters they need to get on more devices/platforms, address the resolution issue (480p isn’t going to cut it for playback on large screen TVs) and offer CC and DD 5.1 audio.

  9. I usually like competitors in the marketplace. My concern is that competing services drive up content costs for exclusives to differentiate themselves from one another. This is great for the studios, but just take a look at your cable bill and you can see it sucks for consumers.

  10. Would love this. Would become a prime subscriber. Would have to run ethernet to the tv (rats) unless PS3 support is added (walmart pushed VUDU on, why not), or get a wireless bridge or something.

  11. Would love for this to happen. My Panasonic Viera TV and Blu-Ray player were both released the year before Netflix came to the platform. I was originally lead to believe they would be upgraded to Netflix…but it turns out they’re not able to. As of right now, I haven’t felt the need to get netflix (and a roku/boxee to support it) but if Amazon does this, it’s a no brainer for me.

    I’ve gotten fairly addicted to Amazon Prime after getting a free trial through Amazon Mom, and this would justify extending the service (i.e. paying for it) it since my Viera TV DOES have Amazon VOD streaming. The HD quality is fantastic.

  12. “I’ve gotten fairly addicted to Amazon Prime after getting a free trial through Amazon Mom, and this would justify extending the service (i.e. paying for it) it since my Viera TV DOES have Amazon VOD streaming. The HD quality is fantastic.”

    Yet again, if Prime does start giving away all-you-can-eat streaming, it won’t be in HD…

  13. I’d jump on this in a NY minute. We already spend $40 or so a year in shipping charges, so this would be only an incremental $40 per year or $3.33/month. Amazon will get more of my total budget, since I won’t have to pay so much attention to shipping charges. It seems to be an odd cross-promotion, but it works for me.

  14. I’m with Cresence — as a current Prime member, getting free streaming is a very welcome perk, but it does sound a little bit too good to be true. If they do combine it with Prime membership, perhaps it’ll be a higher tier, e.g. extra $30-60/yr.

  15. That included quote “Your Amazon Prime membership…” makes no mention of HD. And I don’t see why Amazon would make their supposed Prime streaming service in HD. This is the land of “good enough” and as a “free” add-on to Prime membership, this is a win. For non serious viewing, I have no problem with good quality SD content. Not to mention if they did offer HD, it would compete with their VOD and Blu-ray (BD) sales so why would they do that.

  16. “it does sound a little bit too good to be true”

    If they toss in a relatively slim catalog of SD stuff, I can easily imagine it not being too good to be true. SD streaming rights are quite cheap compared to HD streaming rights. And that goes doubly if they’re using it as a loss-leader to get folks in the door.

    Amazon has often been willing to lose money on certain items. Remember when the book publishers had a big problem with Amazon because Amazon was selling the books for less than they paid the publishers for them?

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