Wednesday, July 20, 2011, 11:17 AM ET|Posted by Will RichmondAmazon and CBS announced a licensing agreement this morning, which, while a step in the right direction for Amazon Prime, doesn't seem to offer it much differentiation. The press release states that 18 CBS TV programs are part of the deal, though the only ones identified are "The Tudors," "Numb3rs," "Medium," the "Star Trek" series, "Frasier" and "Cheers." A quick glance at Netflix's catalog shows that all past seasons of "Numb3rs," "Medium," "Cheers," "The Tudors" and the original 3 seasons of "Star Trek" are available on streaming. Only "Frasier" isn't available on streaming, though it is on DVD.
Perhaps some of the other programs in the deal aren't already available on Netflix, but the group identified today underscores how networks' and studios' non-exclusive approach means that any distributor with a willingness to pay will get essentially the same content.
For Amazon, which is making the video catalog available as part of its $79/year Amazon Prime shipping service, it means a challenging road ahead to differentiate itself beyond price. On the other hand, for Netflix it means that the more of its catalog that is duplicated by others, the more competitive the market will become. Clearly Netflix has a first-mover advantage with its existing subscriber base, but especially given its recent pricing changes, the fight for new subscribers will be increasingly difficult.