By Sarah Perez
Proving the rumors right, Amazon (AMZN) today announced a video deal with Viacom, Inc. (VIA) which will allow Amazon Prime members to instantly stream TV shows from MTV, Comedy Central, Nickelodeon, TV Land, Spike, VH1, BET, CMT and Logo. The deal increases the total number of Prime Instant Videos to more than 15,000, the company reports. In December, there were 13,000 movies and TV shows available, so it’s a moderate increase in terms of quantity, but a big step in terms of Amazon becoming a more viable Netflix competitor.
Since the launch of Prime Instant Videos last February, Amazon has signed licensing deals with CBS, Fox Broadcasting, PBS, NBCUniversal, Sony, Warner Bros, Disney-ABC Television, ViacomMedia Networks and others. Over the course of the past 12 months, the service has gone from 5,000 videos to now 15,000.
The videos can be played on over 300 different devices, including of course, the new Kindle Fire tablet, as well as on Macs and PCs. As with Netflix (NFLX), Amazon’s videos are streamed commercial-free to its paying customers. The Amazon Prime service which provides this access currently costs $79/year, and also offers unlimited two-day shipping on millions of Amazon products and Kindle books that can be borrowed for free with no due dates.
The new Viacom titles will roll out over the next several months and include MTV shows like The Hills, Jersey Shore, The Hard Times of RJ Berger, several seasons of The Real World, and Comedy Central shows such as Chappelle’s Show and The Sarah Silverman Program. For kids, Amazon brings Nickelodeon episodes of iCarly, Dora the Explorer, SpongeBob SquarePants, Yo Gabba Gabba, along with TV Land favorite, Hot in Cleveland.
Although Netflix is currently the market leader in streaming video, both Amazon, and others, including yesterday’s Verizon/Redbox venture as well as whatever Apple’s up to (it’s probably not a hobby, despite what Apple says), are proving to be new challengers in the space. But Netflix isn’t relying on its streaming library alone these days – it’s now funding original programming, too. Its first scripted series called Lilyhammer debuted on Monday, and is now available to watch online. Original, scripted content represents a start of an entirely new vertical for the company, one that doesn’t rely on streaming deals like this to make it worth paying for. Amazon will eventually have to do the same to continue to compete in the space, let alone come out on top.