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Amazon's deal with NBCUniversal could open doors for new tablet

July 28, 2011 | 12:04 pm

Amazon's deal with NBCUniversal could open doors for new tablet

Amazon.com added Universal Pictures movies to its digital video offerings as it lays the groundwork for its forthcoming media tablet.

Such content deals will be critical for Amazon, as it prepares to introduce a new tablet for watching accessing movies and TV shows, reading books and listening to music. The media device is expected to debut in October, and will compete directly with Apple Inc.'s hot-selling iPad.

"The tablet is really a defensive move," said Colin Gillis, research director for BGC Financial. "The tablet is becoming the front door for commerce. ... Amazon wants to be there. It doesn't want to get boxed out by anybody, including Apple."

The online retailer reached a licensing deal with NBCUniversal that will bring  to 9,000 the number of movies and TV shows that customers can watch instantly, at no additional charge, through the Amazon Prime membership program. This program also gives subscribers a shipping discount for an annual fee of $79.

Among the movies to be offered through Amazon's service are "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind," "Babe" and "Being John Malkovich."

The Amazon announcement is another sign of intensifying competition in the digital marketplace, reflecting changes in how consumers are entertained. Earlier this week, Wal-Mart Stores Inc. said it would begin offering 20,000 movies and TV shows to rent or purchase through its Walmart.com website.

"We are very excited to offer Prime members popular Universal films at no additional cost," Cameron Janes, director of Amazon Instant Video, said in a statement.

The online retailer still has a long way to go to catch up with services like Netflix, which makes about 20,000 movies and TV shows available online to subscribers.

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-- Dawn C. Chmielewski

Photo: Catherine Keener and John Cusack the film "Being John Malkovich." Credit: Melissa Moseley / Gramercy Pictures

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