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Rumors of Amazon's streaming service have been circulating for several months now, and a few weeks ago, we reported that an eagle-eyed Engadget reader had spotted a notice on his Amazon page that read "Your Amazon Prime membership now includes unlimited, commercial-free, instant streaming of 5,000 movies and TV shows at no additional cost." The announcement was pulled almost instantly, but not before news spread throughout the media that Amazon was planning a video streaming service to compete with Netflix's Watch Instantly.
Now, those rumors have become reality. As of this morning, Amazon's new service has officially launched, and it's more or less exactly what we expected. More details after the jump.
Amazon Instant Video features 5,000 films and television programs available for streaming, requires an Amazon Prime membership — a cost of $79 per year. Though $79 sounds steep, Netflix's streaming-only option comes out to $96 a year ($8/month), so Amazon's actually cheaper in the long run. Plus, Amazon Prime includes free two-day shipping with no minimum, which, if you buy from Amazon regularly, is pretty sweet. Unfortunately, Student Prime members are not included in the program, and will have to upgrade to a regular Prime in order to take advantage of Instant Video. Non-U.S. Amazon users are out of luck, too — Instant Video is only available for U.S. subscribers at the present.
Advantages of Instant Video include built-in options to rent or buy a film — Gizmodo reports that the average prices are around $12 to buy a film and $4 for a three-day rental for new titles, or slightly lower for old titles. Certain foreign-language films also allow you to choose between subtitles and dubbing.
That said, it sounds like Instant Video still has a few drawbacks to contend with. An early review from Gizmodo notes that the selection isn't quite as good as one might hope — though as the service picks up more users, you can expect that to change — and that the selection of HD video is even less varied. Certain films, like The Social Network, are not part of the program and can only be bought or rented. Furthermore, while Amazon Instant Video is compatible with some big-name boxes like GoogleTV and Roku, it does not work with XBox, PlayStation, or Apple TV. TiVo is expected to get on board soon, but hasn't yet. And apparently the site, overall, isn't so easy to navigate.
Of course, Instant Video is still brand-spanking-new and I don't doubt they'll be making adjustments and improvements over the coming weeks. At this point, it sounds like an excellent perk for anyone who already has Amazon Prime (or who was considering getting it for the two-day shipping, anyway) but not something worth ditching Netflix for.
While it's still early, if Instant Video it does as well as expected, it'll be the only serious competitor to Netflix's Watch Instantly service. (To echo Adam Quigley, "Sorry, Hulu Plus.") Investors seem to have already taken note: according to The Hollywood Reporter, "Netflix shares opened lower on Tuesday."
Here's the full press release, via Gizmodo:
Amazon Prime Members Now Get Unlimited, Commercial-free, Instant Streaming of More Than 5,000 Movies and TV Shows at No Additional Cost
Amazon Adds Instant Videos to Amazon Prime
SEATTLE– Amazon.com, Inc. (NASDAQ:AMZN) today announced the launch of a new benefit for Amazon Prime members: unlimited, commercial-free, instant streaming of more than 5,000 movies and TV shows. This new benefit is being added at no additional cost – Prime membership will continue to be $79 per year. Amazon Prime's all-you-can-eat free Two-Day Shipping has already attracted millions of members. Customers can learn more about an Amazon Prime one-month free trial and start watching instantly at www.amazon.com/primevideos.
"Adding unlimited instant access to thousands of movies and TV shows at no additional cost is a great way to give members even more value for their $79 annual Amazon Prime membership."
"Millions of Amazon Prime members already enjoy the convenience of free Two-Day Shipping," said Robbie Schwietzer, vice president of Amazon Prime. "Adding unlimited instant access to thousands of movies and TV shows at no additional cost is a great way to give members even more value for their $79 annual Amazon Prime membership."
Movies and TV shows included with an Amazon Prime membership can be watched instantly on Macs, PCs and nearly 200 models of Internet-connected TVs, Blu-ray players and set-top boxes that are compatible with Amazon Instant Video. The selection of videos available for instant streaming currently includes movies, such as "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" trilogy, "Amadeus," "Syriana," and "Chariots of Fire," noted documentaries such as "Food Inc.," "March of the Penguins" and "Ken Burns' National Parks," plus TV shows, such as "Doctor Who," "Farscape," "Fawlty Towers" and children's shows, such as "Arthur," "Caillou," "Super Why!" and "Mister Rogers' Neighborhood."
Amazon Prime is a membership program that offers customers unlimited free Two-Day Shipping with no minimum purchase requirement for only $79 a year. Millions of items are eligible, including books, home and garden products, electronics, video games, clothing, accessories and beauty products. With the introduction of Prime instant videos, free trial and paid Amazon Prime members in the U.S. now also have unlimited instant access to more than 5,000 videos.
Amazon Instant Video is a digital video service that offers customers more than 90,000 commercial-free movies and television shows to buy or rent on an a la carte basis. New-release movies are often available as soon as they are released on DVD, and many TV shows are available the day after their first broadcast. Amazon Instant Video also offers thousands of movies and TV shows in high definition. With Amazon Instant Video, customers can watch instantly on Macs, PCs, and nearly 200 Internet connected TVs, Blu-ray players, and set-top boxes. To learn more about Amazon Instant Video on your TV, visit www.amazon.com/watchontv.
"In addition to now offering unlimited, commercial-free, instant streaming of 5,000 movies and TV shows to Amazon Prime members, we continue to offer all customers more than 90,000 movies and TV shows through Amazon Instant Video," said Cameron Janes, director of Amazon Instant Video. "With Amazon Instant Video customers can rent or purchase hit movies, such as 'The Social Network' as well as purchase the latest TV shows available the day-after they broadcast."
Customers who receive Prime shipping benefits through our Amazon Student and Amazon Mom programs can upgrade to receive paid Prime benefits for just $79 a year.
For more information on Amazon Prime and Prime instant videos and to start an Amazon Prime free trial, visit www.amazon.com/primevideos.
For more information on Amazon Instant Video, visit www.amazon.com/instantvideo.
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