Amazon Launches Unlimited Video Streaming, Netflix Endangered? Probably Not

Amazon Launches Unlimited Video Streaming, Netflix Endangered? Probably Not

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Amazon Prime has launched an addition and that means that, in the US, you can stream some 5,000 films and TV shows from their cloud thanks to their Amazon Cloud Player for just $79 a year. Since I’m not in the US I can’t use the Cloud player (which also can stream MP3s). That breaks down to about $6.58 a month. This could force Netflix to rethink its month-to-month $7.99 subscription. It could also work to further fragment an already chaotic market and make users even less likely to adopt. Or it could be the congealing factor that was needed for widespread adoption. Is this the death of DVD rentals?

We already know that some 170 million Americans stream video monthly thanks to comScore. I’m curious to see if Prime brings Amazon into the top ten video properties in the upcoming video metrix. We won’t probably see that until mid-May when they release April numbers but I suspect that they are big enough to nip whomever is in 10th place this month. I predict they’ll easily top NBC Universal which had 24 million unique viewers and 53 million viewing sessions for February.

Amazon’s catalog features 488 collections of TV shows (mostly seasons but for some it’s entire runs), and some 1,795 films as of today. They say over 5,000 individual items. One has to believe that tens of millions of people have Amazon accounts and of them, many might be ready to dive into a yearly subscription for that much content. In fact, they could scoop up all of the disenfranchised Netflix users and the Peter Comstocks out there. But, of course, it also depends on the content available and whether or not people believe it worth the cost.

Amazon allows you to purchase single episode for between 99 cents and $6.99 normally, but with Prime you get many of them for free, anytime you want. For those that aren’t Prime members a 3-day rental is a couple bucks and purchasing of content can also be done in the $10-15 range.

So if you rented 5 episodes and 5 films, it would cost almost as much as a full year of Amazon Prime. That seems rather reasonable to me.

The content runs a wide range of things from some of my favorite TV Shows like Doctor Who, Top Gear and classic 80’s cartoons like He-Man.

Things missing? Well of course Californication, True Blood and Dexter are not available. Even Deadwood isn’t available via Prime. Looking at the Newest Arrivals one will find a smattering of rather old stuff including The Blob and Short Circuit, Lonesome Dove and again, 80’s cartoons like Ghostbusters.

Oddly, almost all of the lowest priced content (based on standard pricing but available for free on Prime) is made by the BBC. Shows like Doctor Who, Torchwood, Top Gear, etc.

In terms of the bestselling stuff (where I went to find justification for a $79 yearly subscription) one will find classic films like Stripes, Amadeus, Risky Business mixed in with new films like The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and more Doctor Who and Torchwood.

Then again, I find the bestselling list to be highly suspect because the number one show, with 4 rating and a  5-star average is Ken Burns: The National Parks – America’s Best Idea.

Most of the content on Prime comes from BBC America (133), BBC (100), PBS (68), National Geographic (43), PBS Fred Rogers (30), BBC Earth (18)…are you seeing a trend here? For films the major players are Reel Enterprises (291), Egami (280), Magnolia (157), Warner Bros (155), Sony (141). Reel Enterprises offers classic films from the Hollywood heyday while Egami offers what looks to be mostly documentaries and live performance recordings and indie flicks and Magnolia offers documentaries and foreign hits like Ong Bak. Well OK that’s really the only film from them I know.

The big hits from Warner Bros are missing. Almost anything with Batman or Superman in the title is missing same goes with the Matrix. Sony’s offering is much the same. Stripes is there as is Charlie’s Angels (the film with Diaz, Barrymore and Liu) but nothing new.

Those extra aisles at the rental store

What it all feels like, are those rows and rows of shelves right in the middle of Blockbuster that you walk past in order to get to the good stuff. It’s the content that Blockbuster would offer you for free with every new release when you had some package deal. Now it’s all available for $79 a year from Amazon.

It certainly doesn’t feel like this will impact Netflix or Hulu that much. It also isn’t going to expand much in the realm of more modern content I imagine. With companies like Showtime and HBO pulling in their licenses and opting for their own streaming services, it means that Amazon Prime really just seems like another bargain basement streaming service full of stuff you wouldn’t normally watch but since you have an account you figure what the heck, something different tonight.

I want my MP3!

On the MP3 side of things it is sort of, well…brilliant! The cloud player means that you can listen to any tune you buy from them, anywhere you’ve got Internet. They also give you 5GB of cloud storage right off the bat and if you buy an MP3 from them, it jumps to 20GB. My personal music collection, grown, pruned, cared for and curated by myself for the past few decades contains some 17,000 files and some 90GB of storage space, much of it coming from my ripping my CD collection prior to leaving America. I suppose I would have to pick and choose what I listen to the most (Black Eyed Peas, Violent Femmes, The White Stripes and Raconteurs, Magnetic Fields, Crystal Method, The Beatles and David Guetta) and put that up there.

That 20GB upgrade, is only for one year from the date of purchase of an eligible MP3 purchased prior to the end of 2011. Only in the US of course. If you already have their 20GB account you’ll get a $20 credit, presumably to pay for another year of 20GB of storage.

I want Video Cloud Drive!

So they give you a Cloud Drive for music, so why not video? Well, technically that’s what Prime offers you, but it only offers it for the stuff they want to stream to you in video. In music you can upload your own and then listen anywhere. I imagine that the film industry is adamantly against Amazon doing the same for their content. But it could work. Between Adobe Pass and Intel’s Sandy Bridge hardware-based authentication I could see that totally working for them. Cinema Now is using Intel Insider (that aforementioned tech which they state is not DRM but specialized authentication and encryption hardware and firmware) which could be utilized by Amazon as well. Maybe what we will see is some hybrid version of Disney Movies Online which lets you stream films you already own on DVD via an online code. Perhaps if you have the DVD or Blu-Ray at home you will be able to one day, put it in the drive of your Sandy Bridge machine and connect to Amazon (or Netflix, or somewhere else) and with the Adobe Pass and Intel Insider the streaming service will verify ownership (coupled with a one-time use code of course to prevent friends from lending discs) and authorize you to stream that film in 1080p to a short list (say five) of your personally identified devices.

I think that would work extremely well. Now we just have to get all of the parties into one room and demonstrate to them just how beneficial it would be for them all to work together on this sort of thing. Amazon gets money through the Cloud Drive subscription, Adobe Pass through the per-play license, Intel through consumers purchasing Sandy Bridge PCs and connected devices, the studios through the disc sales and additional sales of content via Amazon (double bump for both of them).

Amazon does this already for select Blu-Rays that you purchase from them. When you do so you can instantly get the Video on Demand version. Again, it looks to mostly be the same stuff available for free via Amazon Prime and doesn’t work for discs bought elsewhere.


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