On-demand video services are definitely on the rise and with the introduction of a streaming-only membership plan, Netflix has opened the door to a plethora of new customers, including iPad owners. The competitive Hulu Plus isn’t doing too shabby either, with its $7.99 monthly rate and growing supply of films and TV shows.
However, it now it looks like another service is about to join the fray – and it’s powered by popular online retailer Amazon .
Over the weekend images started to appear for a new Amazon Video on Demand service, tied in with the company’s recently introduced Amazon Prime shipping program. Subscribers who sign up for Prime gain access to the online services, which, at this point, include mostly overseas selections. This is due to Amazon’s recent acquisition of Lovefilm, the UK equivalent of Netflix. So far Amazon is mum on the plan, but it looks like the selection is pretty reasonable, including a number of quality films such as John Woo’s Red Cliff and all three films in the Millennium Trilogy, as well as popular shows like Skins and Doctor Who.
Without official details from the company, though, it’s hard to tell what Amazon Video on Demand will offer down the road. First off, are you really required to subscribe to Amazon Prime in order to get the service? What if you never use it to ship out items from the company? Are you billed anything extra? Secondly, are there alternate plans available for those customers who don’t feel like picking up Prime? Individual movie rentals are currently available on the website, but costs can add up quickly compared to the monthly subscription rate offered by both Netflix and Hulu Plus.
Also, what about availability of programming? While it’s nice to see a number of acclaimed films and TV shows from overseas, there’s no sign of any big-name movie studios yet. And without them, Amazon won’t be able to offer any day-and-date exclusives like Netflix does, nor any back-catalogued classics from the likes of Warner Bros. and Paramount. We could just as easily activate our Netflix app and turn on Iron Man or Star Trek, rather than clicking through Amazon’s somewhat empty menus. This could change over time, but at the moment, it just can’t keep up.
Finally, compatibility will be a huge issue with Amazon Video on Demand. It’s one thing to have streaming service brought right to your laptop or computer, but what about those who are on the road with only an iPad or an iPhone? From what we’ve seen in these early images, there’s no option to stream this service onto either device. Again, that could change in the future, but for the time being, it all seems very limited.
Don’t get us wrong. Amazon is a powerhouse in the entertainment department, as indicated by its dozens of online departments and variety of products. But how that will translate into a streaming business – and one that will no doubt cost a fortune in licensing – remains to be seen. We’re eager to see what comes out of it, though. Netflix and Hulu Plus offer quite a bit, but if Amazon can somehow muster a few exclusives of its own, it could have a large number of subscribers heading its way.