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Posted at 11:34 AM ET, 02/22/2011

Amazon Prime now includes free streaming movies, TV shows

By Rob Pegoraro

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.

Its site listed 1,669 movies as being "Prime Eligible" earlier this morning, against 34,862 total. Likewise, Amazon reported that 484 TV seasons qualified for this offer, out of 6,248 in all.

Those numbers look well below Netflix's Watch Instantly selection, as reported by a third-party site, (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.

By Rob Pegoraro  | February 22, 2011; 11:34 AM ET
Categories:  TV, Video  
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Rob, you're back! Glad to see you posting. Re: the AMAZON prime announcement, at this point, their selection is horrendous, noticeably worse than the Netflix streaming choices, which aren't that great in IMHO.

Posted by: bwparker1 | February 22, 2011 11:58 AM | Report abuse

What's the overlap between this offering and Netflix? I pay for Netflix and for Amazon Prime - do I get any new viewing options, or is this just another source for content I can already view?

Posted by: jonsolo11 | February 22, 2011 12:09 PM | Report abuse

I too am interested in the non-overlapping movies that JonSolo inquired about. Using a WinHTPC I can easily watch these on the same TV as the rest of my video options (netflix, hulu, WMC). I see right off the bat that they have Scooby Doo Where's My Mummy (I have young children) for streaming that Netflix doesn't.

Posted by: lesatwork | February 22, 2011 12:53 PM | Report abuse

Amazon prime membership was created to make more money off you, they "encourage" people to become prime member to receive their goods sooner. On the other hand delay shipping on others, sometime hold the good 3 to 4 days. Now, they try to use member fee to support other thing which some members might never use, and this is not what they sign up for. Personally, I am not a prime member, but if I was, I will sue them.

Posted by: cal_002 | February 22, 2011 1:01 PM | Report abuse

Thanks for the info. I love my Amazon Prime and this just adds another good reason. It spoils you to most other retail sites. That two days to my door has me impatiently tapping my fingers when forget and I order from other sites.

Posted by: Desertdiva1 | February 22, 2011 2:11 PM | Report abuse


Paying $80 for something does not make it free. I will be mailing a dictionary for you and the other Pravda reporters to share.

Posted by: | February 22, 2011 2:14 PM | Report abuse

This is far from "free". In order for this to work, you need to buy a Roku box ($199), then pay $79 per year just to watch online content? This is too much, especially when you can get the same thing from websites like TVDevo that offer a very similar thing without requiring a Roku box. All you need is an internet connection and your computer to watch with it.

Posted by: Jenniferweb | February 22, 2011 7:22 PM | Report abuse

Coupon shopping should be serious business to? more people in this economy, new thing is collective buying check for the website "Printapons"

Posted by: dawnclowe | February 23, 2011 3:04 AM | Report abuse

@davidholt123 is right: Please stop calling prepaid shipping "free."

@Jenniferweb: Amazon's service works on your regular computer; no additional hardware is necessary if you're content watching on your monitor.

As for the selection: Browsing the titles throws me back to the olden days of Blockbuster, when you were stuck on a holiday weekend perusing the aisles of leftover flicks after all of the new releases were taken. My interests, classics and musicals, had some odd choices in there, but maybe this will launch a revival of the musical stylings of Roy Rogers or something.

Posted by: OneSockOn | February 23, 2011 1:47 PM | Report abuse

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