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Amazon adds streaming video to Prime subscriptions in a bid to rival Netflix, Hulu

February 22, 2011 |  3:59 pm

BullittAmazonPrime

Amazon.com has officially jumped into the fray of subscription video-streaming services, charging into competition with Netflix and Hulu Plus, among others.

However, the Seattle-based retail giant is taking a different route than Netflix and Hulu. Whereas both of those services charge a monthly fee of $7.99, Amazon has added its streaming video to its Amazon Prime membership.

Until Tuesday, Amazon Prime was a $79-a-year offer that gave subscribers free two-day shipping as its main enticement. Now, U.S. Amazon Prime members can download about 5,000 movies and TV shows at no added cost. Amazon Prime's instant video can be watched via the Web browsers on computers, smart phones and tablets, as well as certain Blu-ray players and some set-top boxes such as the Roku.

Los Angeles Times reporter Ben Fritz covered the story this morning on the Company Town blog, writing:

Amazon has signed up two major studios, Sony Pictures and Warner Bros. -- to provide older movies from their libraries -- along with 13 independent providers including the BBC, PBS, Magnolia Pictures, IFC and National Geographic.

The eclectic mix of content immediately available includes the movies "Hairspray," "The Human Centipede" and "Stripes" and the TV shows "Mister Rogers' Neighborhood," "Bonanza" and "Farscape."

That's only a fraction of the content available to subscribers of Netflix, which has deals with every major film studio and a number of TV producers. Moreover, though most of Amazon Prime's content is more than a decade old, Netflix has much fresher titles, including movies less than a year old, thanks to deals with pay cable networks Starz and Epix.

Amazon, however, is in talks with every Hollywood studio and is said by people familiar with the matter to be seeking to grow its content selection with more and newer content.

Amazon has been planning its entry into the subscription-based streaming video market since last summer, Fritz said, noting that Netflix has more than 20 million subscribers with about two-thirds of them using the company's streaming option.

To read the rest of Fritz's report, head over to Company Town for Amazon launches Netflix-like streaming service with content from Warner Bros., Sony and independents.

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-- Nathan Olivarez-Giles

twitter.com/nateog

Image: A screen shot of a listing for the movie "Bullitt," available for streaming to Amazon Prime members. Credit: Amazon.com

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