According to The Wall Street Journal retail giant Amazon.com may challenge the Netflix streaming product with a service of their own. Apparently the company has been in talks with NBC, Time Warner, News Corp. and Viacom to get content distribution rights to TV shows and film titles. If things fall into place, Amazon hopes to get the service launched this holiday season.
The Amazon service would be offered through several methods including web browsers, web-enabled TVs, PCs, Blu-ray players, and game consoles (the Xbox 360 was mentioned). Widespread integration is crucial. One of the reasons Netflix has been so successful is access to library content via a wide range of hardware and software apps.
But Netflix won’t be Amazon’s only obstacle. Rumors of Google launching a streaming service have been floating around, although Google reps decline to offer any official announcements. One factor to keep your eye on is Google’s “global” footprint.
Apple also announced at their recent conference they would be offering $.99 TV show rentals from FOX and ABC with other studios sure to follow. However, according to the WSJ report Amazon would be targeting library titles similar to Netflix, rather than focusing on new releases which Apple seems to keyed into. Although, you can be sure Netflix would not be opposed to getting day-and-date releases.
What makes things really interesting is Netflix recently moved their content over to Amazon servers. Earlier in the year Netflix VP of engineering Kevin McEntee said the company was more interested in focusing on movie innovation rather than building server farms.
Amazon has the servers, the leverage, and pre-existing software integration on many devices and PCs which would allow them to hit the ground running. They also have a large subscriber base to the Amazon Prime shipping program which they could tap into.
But Netflix has built a strong brand which is becoming synonymous with on-demand video. Kids don’t even refer to watching a movie or TV show anymore, they refer to watching Netflix. Amazon, iTunes, and to some extent Blockbuster just don’t appear to have that niche branding. To many consumers, still: Amazon=products; iTunes=music; and Blockbuster=rentals.
In a time when focused apps may be replacing the web and niche seems to equal success, you can’t question the viability of major players like Google and Amazon taking over whatever industry they decide to next. But, you can’t count out the niche players who have what the big players want.