In a move that has given Amazon Prime Instant Video its first true competitive advantage over Netflix, Amazon has just announced that a bunch of HBO content is coming to their streaming video service.
Starting on May 21st, Amazon Prime Instant Video customers (anyone with an Amazon Prime subscription) will have access to every season of many classic HBO shows, as well as original miniseries, comedy specials, and documentaries.
New and currently airing HBO shows on the other hand, well, they're a different story. Some (like Game of Thrones) aren't mentioned in the deal, while seasons of others (like Girls, True Blood, and The Newsroom) will hit Amazon Prime three years after their original airing on HBO.
There is some great stuff on the way, however, including The Sopranos, The Wire, Deadwood, Rome and Six Feet Under, and of recent favorites such as Eastbound & Down, Enlightened and Flight of the Conchords. Also, Band of Brothers, John Adams, and The Pacific
“HBO has produced some of the most groundbreaking, beloved and award-winning shows in television history, with more than 115 Emmys amongst the assortment of shows coming to Prime members next month,” said Brad Beale, Director of Content Acquisition for Amazon. “HBO original content is some of the most-popular across Amazon Instant Video—our customers love watching these shows. Now Prime members can enjoy a collection of great HBO shows on an unlimited basis, at no additional cost to their Prime membership.”
For a while now, Netflix has had most of the competitive advantages over Amazon Prime Instant Video. Sure, the latter sports some movies and classic TV series that the former lacks (Hannibal, Orphan Black, The Shield, for instance), but Netflix is killing it with the original content game. Amazon Studios is making a push, but nothing they've produced has had the instant success of shows like Netflix's House of Cards and Orange is the New Black. Plus, Amazon Prime Instant Video has always felt like an auxiliary sort of service–one that you get because you already have Amazon Prime (for the free two-day shipping, presumably). Netflix is just Netflix, if that makes any sense.
In my mind, inking a deal with HBO is huge for Amazon.
Speaking of Netflix, if you ask CEO Reed Hastings, Amazon Prime Instant Video isn't so much a competitor as it is a compliment to Netflix. Hell, he's even a subscriber.
"Prime’s a great service,” said Hastings at Netflix's recent earnings call. “I’m a prime member, and most Netflix employees are Prime members, and it’s coming across to most people in our society as very complimentary to Netflix. People look at them as multiple channels. You saw that Amazon included us on the Fire TV, and of course we’ve been before on the Kindle Fires, and it’s a great relationship all around where we’ve got unique content. They’ve also got some unique content. They’re also doing originals, and there’s multiple networks out there. It’s very much not a zero sum game, and we’re building this ecosystem together that’s about Internet video, and the more players there are in Internet video, the bigger that ecosystem gets, and the big theme is Internet video is taking share away from linear video, and so we’re all participating in that transformation.”
Then again, now Amazon Prime Instant Video has a bunch of HBO stuff and Netflix doesn't. If you're an HBO lover who's a cordcutter and not really into torrents, Amazon Prime Instant Video is now the place to get the content you want. Of course, until HBO caves and releases a standalone HBO GO service, free of the chains of cable TV. But don't hold your breath.
More from this announcement: the two parties are remedying a recent issue. HBO GO will become available on Amazon's new Fire TV by year's end. Year's end, you ask? Yes. HBO GO is notoriously slow to hit new streaming devices.
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