Amazon Prime now includes free streaming movies, TV shows
Frequent online shoppers have a new video option to consider: Amazon now provides "more than 5,000" streaming movies and TV shows for free to members of its $79/year Amazon Prime program.
The Seattle retailer announced the news this morning. This feature uses the same technology as Amazon's video-on-demand service--meaning it should work on any computer, TV, Blu-ray player or Web-media receiver that supports Amazon VOD and, bandwidth and content willing, offer high-definition viewing. But the selection of free videos offered to Prime subscribers, who pay $79 a year for free two-day shipping, is far narrower than what's available for rent or purchase through Amazon's older program.
Those numbers look well below Netflix's Watch Instantly selection, as reported by a third-party site, instantwatcher.com. (Netflix itself only describes its inventory of streaming titles as numbering in the "thousands.") That independently run site, created by Cambridge, Mass., software developer Daniel Choi, lists 8,863 movies available for online streaming and 2,700 TV seasons.
On the other hand, 12 months of the $7.99 streaming-only plan that Netflix introduced in November add up to $95.88. And that doesn't get you any free two-day delivery of jeans, printer ink cartridges, televisions or anything else in Amazon's vast inventory.
Some people who have been enjoying Prime two-day shipping don't qualify for the video option: Amazon's press release clarifies that if you signed up for Prime for free though its Amazon Student and Amazon Mom promotions, you'll have to pay for the real thing. As I've been enjoying free two-day shipping through the latter program--yes, dads are eligible too--I can't report back on how the new free video streaming works.
But maybe you can. Have a look at the selection, and let me know what you think--and how it compares with Netflix's Watch Instantly offerings.
5:32 p.m. Netflix has a response of sorts: It announced a two-year deal with CBS to bring that network's library of TV shows to its streaming service. Starting in early April, you'll be able to add "select TV shows from CBS's library"--for example, "Medium" and "Flashpoint"--as well as entire seasons of older fare. The latter section interests me more, since it covers "The Twilight Zone," "Twin Peaks" and (oh, yes) every episode of every "Star Trek" series.
| February 22, 2011; 11:34 AM ET
Categories: TV, Video
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