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Amazon Prepping Netflix-Like Streaming Service: Report

Amazon.com appears to be readying a service that would make 5,000 movies and TV shows available to watch instantly -- for no extra charge -- to members of the online retailer's $79-per-year Prime free-shipping membership program.

The service would provide "unlimited, commercial-free, instant streaming of 5,000 movies and TV shows" with content similar to what is available through Netflix's streaming component, according to a report by consumer technology blog site Engadget. Amazon's service, though, would be limited to standard-definition video.

Amazon Prime is a membership program that provides free two-day shipping as well as one-day shipping for $3.99 per item on certain purchases.

Currently Amazon offers a selection of more than 75,000 movie and TV show rentals or purchases through PCs, Microsoft's Xbox 360 and connected-TV devices, including those from TiVo, Samsung, Sony, Panasonic, Vizio and Roku.

The instant-streaming service from Amazon would add to the growing amount of premium video content available online under a subscription plan.

Leading the pack is Netflix, which has experienced phenomenal growth over the last year, ending 2010 with just over 20 million subscribers. The company is trying to shift from predominantly shipping DVDs by mail to less-costly digital delivery over the Internet.

Meanwhile, Hulu, the Internet TV service jointly owned by NBCUniversal, Walt Disney Co. and News Corp., has been mulling a shift in strategy "recasting Hulu as an online cable operator that would use the Web to send live TV channels and video-on-demand content to subscribers," the Wall Street Journalreported last week.

The company already offers Hulu Plus, a $7.99-per-month plan that offers all episodes of several primetime shows' current seasons and library content, accessible through various devices.

Cable, satellite and telco TV providers have responded with "TV Everywhere" offerings, such as HBOGo.com, that provide online access to material ordinarily available only on TV through a set-top box.

For its part, Apple reportedly explored offering a $30-per-month subscription plan geared around current TV content more than a year ago but failed to land any deals.