By Jared Newman | Tuesday, August 31, 2010 at 5:12 pm
Amazon reportedly wants to be more like Netflix, with subscription-based streaming of movies and television — if only Hollywood studios would play along.
The Wall Street Journal’s unnamed sources say Amazon has spent weeks, or perhaps months, courting major media companies, including NBC Universal, Viacom and Time Warner. Amazon has proposed all kinds of ideas, including a service bundled with Amazon Prime, which provides unlimited two-day shipping and other perks for $79 per year.
So far, the retailer isn’t getting much traction, the Journal suggests. It’s not clear whether any media companies are interested, and Amazon could put the plan on ice or give up entirely if there aren’t enough content providers involved. (Update: WSJ has filled out its story considerably since this post, and the tone isn’t as dreary. There’s no longer any language that says it’s not clear whether any media companies are interested, and instead cites two unnamed media executives who describe the program as a possibility. I’ve removed “Can’t Seal the Deal” from the headline here, since that seems premature.)
Even if studios were more liberal about licensing their content on a subscription basis, Amazon still has another problem: It’s woefully behind Netflix in the race for ubiquity.
Amazon’s existing pay-per-view service is available through some Web-connected televisions and Blu-ray players, and Roku’s set-top box, but so is Netflix’s subscription streaming. Meanwhile, Amazon is absent from all three video game consoles, on which Netflix is already available, and you can’t download or transfer Amazon movies to an iPhone or iPad without DRM cracking.
Without a foothold on game consoles or Apple devices, Amazon would struggle to complete with Netflix, which by several indications is investing its earnings in building an even bigger streaming library. If Amazon can’t make similar investments, and doesn’t exist on as many platforms, it’s hard to imagine why the service would be superior.
I don’t mean to kick Amazon when it’s (reportedly) down, but it’s hard to imagine a worthy competitor to Netflix when it’s done so well in terms of getting on lots of platforms and steadily building its streaming library. For now, it seems, subscription video streaming isn’t big enough for more than one service.