Look out Netflix and Hulu Plus – Amazon has officially entered the streaming video-on-demand fray.
The giant e-retailer has offered streaming for what seems like an eternity, both as a pay-as-you-go a la carte system and as a free perk for subscribing to the Amazon Prime service, but the catch with the latter option has always been that it required a year-long subscription (with a single $79 payment) to get all your streaming dreams fulfilled. That changed this week.
Amazon will now test a monthly option for those who can’t (or won’t) pay the $79 fee upfront. The new plan allows for customers to get access not only to the site’s streaming library (which features thousands of titles, including recent additions from NBC Universal), but also free two-day shipping on any item and one free Kindle book “rental” per month from its Kindle lending library (the selection is a bit hit or miss, but hey, it’s a throw-in).
As someone who’s used the Prime service in the past, the real selling point of a Prime membership for me was always the free two-day shipping. The streaming and other stuff were nice extras, but anything that allows fast shipping with no charge resonates with me more. The problem was that I never bought enough stuff regularly (or found enough things to watch on Amazon) to justify subscribing for the whole year. This new option gives guys like me the ability to opt in when we want, use it, and then drop out again if we don’t need it.
Amazon still has a ways to go to catch up with Netflix in terms of its library, but this new deal could make them a serious alternative to Hulu Plus – particularly if you also regularly purchase items from Amazon. We’ve never done a comparison of titles available across the two services, but one thing working in Amazon’s favor is that you’re not stuck watching commercials – something Hulu Plus subscribers have to endure.
Really, though, it’s consumers and film fans who win here – competition and options are good. Amazon may not replace Netflix or Hulu Plus for some viewers, but it’s now a viable option as a supplement to those services since it no longer requires the full 12-month commitment. The only downside here? Opting for the monthly service will run $95.88 for 12 months instead of the $79 – but if you know you’re in it for the long haul, just grab the year’s option and be done with it.
Will you consider swapping over to Amazon now that it is offering this new monthly plan or will you stick with Netflix? What would Amazon have to do to make you switch? Give us your market analysis in the comment section below.
[via Hacking Netflix]
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