Original content has emerged as a major selling point, but now rumors are seeping out that Amazon is plotting a notable departure from its current content model.
As things stand, members of Amazon’s $99 annual Prime subscription gain access to a Netflix-style catalog of movies and TV shows, including a growing slate of original content, such as the excellent The Man in the High Castle. Additionally, anyone — Prime member or otherwise — can pay per title to access a much more extensive range of films and shows, something that Netflix doesn’t offer.
But now Amazon is looking to open things up further by including access to third-party on-demand video services as part of Prime, according to a Bloomberg report.
Citing “people with knowledge of the plans,” Bloomberg said that Prime subscribers will soon be able to add additional online subscriptions to their account — “including major, well-known movie and TV channels,” while Amazon will also sell other bundles featuring different channels and services.
It’s not clear what these additional bolt-ons could be yet, but with TV networks showing increasing signs of nervousness at the surge in popularity of on-demand TV, Amazon could be preparing to strike deals. Indeed, just a few weeks back, Time Warner revealed it was considering holding back its better content from streaming services such as Netflix.
It would certainly make sense from Amazon’s perspective to extend the olive branch to other broadcasters and seek mutually beneficial arrangements. Creating original content isn’t cheap — earlier this year Amazon won the battle to sign former Top Gear presenters for a new driving show, but it haemorrhaged $250 million for the privilege. Original programming will continue to play a core part in its strategy, as will licensing content, but by getting other media giants on board as part of a broader Prime subscription, Amazon could find a lucrative sideline as a distributor, similar to what it does by offering a platform through its own Fire TV.
A major issue for many people at the moment is the number of subscriptions that are needed to catch all the best stuff. For starters, there’s HBO Now in the U.S., and over in the U.K., satellite TV giant Sky has a streaming-focused version of its service called Now TV, while Disney is preparing to launch its own service in Europe. With so many options, the paradox of choice can be an issue, and subscription fatigue can also set in.
This would mean that Amazon would assume the role of on-boarding new customers not only for itself, but for its partners. And as this implies integrations rather than licensing, whatever the service eventually looks like, it would have to offer clear branding from the other networks.
Bringing together on-demand services, while also consolidating and simplifying the actual subscription element, could prove a major milestone in the evolution of online entertainment. And with free shipping and other Prime perks thrown in for good measure, cord-cutters will surely rejoice.