Amazon announced a new licensing deal with NBCU that gives it streaming rights to a batch of older movies from Universal Pictures, bumping to 9,000 the number of movies and TV shows available for its Amazon Prime Members. However, the move is unlikely to have the folks at Netflix quaking in their boots; like Amazon's licensing deal with CBS from last week, virtually all of the Universal movies are already available on Netflix (by my count 9 of the 11 titles identified in today's press release can be streamed on Netflix while only "Elizabeth" and "Fletch" are available solely on DVD).
Don't get me wrong, more content is always a good thing, and these deals, along with an acquisition of Pushbutton, a UK app developer for connected devices, suggest things may be ramping up at Amazon. But the content deals do underscore the catch-up game that Amazon is playing with Netflix. That's the dynamic in today's market - Netflix got a head start in aggregating Hollywood content for online distribution. Now, to the extent it has a willingness to pay, Amazon must go do similar deals.
The good news for Amazon is that most of Netflix's streaming deals are non-exclusive. As I pointed out earlier with respect to Wal-Mart and VUDU, that means Amazon has a much better chance of leveling the playing field from a content perspective as Netflix positions itself more as a streaming company. One quirk for Amazon though it that it has buried in Instant Video content in Amazon Prime. While some believe that including video for the $79 annual Prime charge is smart, to me it still feels like Amazon is diluting its video emphasis by not having a specific standalone brand.
Regardless, as Amazon acquires more content, it's going to become a more meaningful Netflix competitor.
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