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Amazon Adds 1,000 ‘Prime’ Movies, TV Shows

23 Jun, 2011 By: Erik Gruenwedel

Amazon Instant Video now available on more than 300 connected devices

Amazon significantly upped video offerings on its Prime Instant Video membership loyalty program with the addition of more than 1,000 new movies and TV programs available for unlimited streaming to the television.

New programming includes major studio releases The Right Stuff, Training Day, Network and Superman: The Movie; and independent films Y Tu Mamá También, A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints and Waste Land, among others. TV shows include “Midsomer Murders” and canceled programs “Pushing Daisies” and “Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles,” among others.

The online retail behemoth’s $79 annual Prime program, which gives members free two-day shipping on most purchases and one-day delivery on small-ticket items, in February unveiled its Instant Video service with 5,000 catalog movies and TV shows members could stream to the TV.

To date, Amazon Prime represents the single-biggest direct threat to Netflix’s market-leading subscription-based video-on-demand, or VOD, streaming service.

In a post to the Amazon site, founder and CEO Jeff Bezos said the service also added the last seven seasons of “Sesame Street,” including three seasons in high-definition, to accompany more than 1,500 family-friendly titles available for streaming. Amazon, for the first time, disclosed that Instant Video is available as an app on more than 300 consumer electronics devices, including connected HDTVs, Blu-ray Disc players and set-top boxes.

Frost & Sullivan analyst Dan Rayburn said the content addition doesn’t put Prime Instant Video on par with Netflix, but added the glacial divide between the two services is narrowing. Rayburn, who believes Amazon represents a major threat to Netflix, suggests Amazon in the near future will bow a proprietary tablet mini-computer, similar to what it did with the Kindle e-reader.

“Amazon is really positioning itself to own the entire value chain,” Rayburn wrote in a June 23 on StreamingMedia.com. “While they won't own the content, they will control the distribution of video, thanks to their [Amazon Web Services] group, and control at least some of the devices the content is played back on.”

He said Amazon’s deep pockets and diversified revenue streams allow it to gradually provide backend support and resources to Instant Video without attracting the scrutiny Netflix does.

“The difference is that Netflix needs to spend the money today to get more content to continue [and justify] their [subscriber] growth,” Rayburn said. “But Amazon gets the vast majority of their revenue from non-streaming-related services and is not under as much pressure to close content deals fast.”

Richard Greenfield, analyst with BTIG Research in New York, remained underwhelmed on the content additions and Amazon Instant Video in general. Specifically, Greenfield questions the title selections’ appeal to the average Amazon consumer. And he wonders why the streaming VOD platform is piggybacked on a shipping-based loyalty program — and not as a standalone service.

“We find it hard to believe the title additions cited in today’s message meaningfully change the attraction of the streaming content on Prime,” Greenfield wrote in a June 23 .

The analyst agreed Netflix’s initial streaming content mirrored Amazon’s, but that was at a time when the entire streaming platform was unproven.

“Now consumer interest in streaming movies/TV shows has been proven with Netflix in a powerful incumbent position,” Greenfield wrote. “In turn, Amazon either needs to go all-out and start paying up for better content or they should stop promoting the streaming content component of Prime so aggressively.”

About the Author: Erik Gruenwedel

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