Moving further beyond its origin as a mail-order online retailer, Amazon.com has taken another leap into full media services, agreeing to a licensing deal with Viacom to add dozens of shows to its streaming lineup.
Viacom's TV channels include MTV, Comedy Central, Nickelodeon, TV Land, Spike, VH1, BET, CMT and Logo, and it doesn't give up its content easily. The company is embroiled in a legal battle with Time Warner Cable over streaming-content rights which prevents subscribers from accessing those channels via Time Warner's recently released apps for Android and Apple's iOS.
The content is available to Amazon Prime members, who pay $79 a year for free shipping on many items available for purchase, access to the Kindle Owners Lending Library for digital reading and commercial-free, instant access to movies and TV shows. Streaming movies and TV shows are also available a la carte via Amazon Instant Video.
News of the agreement greets customers on the site's landing page in the form of a letter from founder and CEO Jeff Bezos. "We've just wrapped up another deal," he says.
Access to Viacom shows like The Hills, iCarly and Jersey Shore brings the total number of Prime Instant videos to 15,000, Amazon said. Prime content is available on 300 different devices.
"Over the last year we have received fantastic customer feedback about Prime Instant Video. We are constantly working to improve the service by adding the shows that our customers enjoy the most," said Brad Beale, director of video content acquisition for Amazon.
"This deal with Viacom brings Prime customers and Kindle Fire users thousands of comedies, kids' shows, reality TV and much more from some of the best cable networks available."
The Kindle Fire is a 7-inch touchscreen tablet that runs a customized version of Google's Android operating system.
Amazon previously struck deals with CBS, Fox, PBS, NBC-Universal, Sony, Warner Bros and Disney-ABC Television.
Kindle as Storefront
The Viacom deal puts Amazon on course as a direct challenger to movie rental giant Netflix, which has a bigger library of streaming titles but has been struggling to hold its membership.
"The bigger strategy is to create what amounts to a content loyalty program for Amazon and increasingly turn the Kindle Fire and following tablet offerings into a dedicated Amazon store front in every home," said technology consultant Rob Enderle of the Enderle Group.
"This is a very unique attempt to effectively corral Amazon customers into Amazon's growing set of services, which would increase customer retention and effectively lower the cost of customer acquisition as well."
If the effort is successful, Enderle said, it could create "a retail empire nearly impossible to breach, assuming, as is often unfortunately the case, Amazon after winning didn't misuse their newfound power ."
In short, he said, the company's goal is to "tie every buyer directly to one primary store, which is becoming a virtual mall. On an optimum path, Amazon is U.S. retail in 10 to 20 years."