Amazon launches Netflix-like streaming service with content from Warner Bros., Sony and independents
Amazon.com has launched its long-awaited subscription video-streaming service, setting itself up to be the first serious rival to fast-growing Netflix.
The online retail giant on Tuesday began offering U.S. subscribers to its $79-per-year Amazon Prime shipping service the additional benefit of access to 5,000 movies and television shows that can be streamed at no additional cost on computers and certain other Internet-connected devices.
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.
The company first decided to get into the subscription video business last summer as a way to take on Netflix, which has attracted 20 million subscribers, more than two-thirds of whom have streamed movies and TV shows from the Internet.
Kiosk DVD rental company Redbox has also said it plans to launch a subscription video-streaming service, but with the help of a partner. Amazon is considered a likely candidate to be Redbox's partner.
Amazon already offers more than 90,000 movies and TV shows for rental or purchase on a one-off basis. It also recently acquired 100% of Lovefilm, a European company that, like Netflix, offers DVDs by mail and videos online to subscribers.
-- Ben Fritz