Amazon Prime Video confirms international expansion plans

Amazon.com

Amazon today confirmed that its Prime Video service is now available in more than 200 countries.

The official announcement, which comes roughly one month after the Wall Street Journal reported Amazon’s plans, prices Amazon Prime at around $2.99 (or €2.99) for the first six months in most markets. After that, the price jumps to $5.99 (or €5.99) per month.

Of course, existing Amazon Prime members in Belgium, Canada, France, India, Italy and Spain will automatically get the video service at no additional cost.

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Amazon released an exhaustive list of the countries which, as likely expected, does not include China. Prime competitor Netflix had previously tried to break into China’s massive streaming market but gave up on those efforts in October.

RELATED: Netflix giving up on China, for now, as provider concentrates on long-term content strategy

“We now plan to license content to existing online service providers in China rather than operate our own service in China in the near term,” Netflix CEO Reed Hastings said.

Amazon could end up taking a similar route but for now it appears focused on luring new Prime subscribers across a multitude of international markets.

According to the news release, Amazon Prime Video will be available in English, with French, Italian, Portuguese and Spanish subtitled and dubbed versions also available for many titles.

Amazon is also allowing Prime Video members to ration mobile data used for streaming and downloading video by offering “Good, Better and Best” video quality setting. Amazon is also offering automated and machine learning systems that will find optimal streaming configurations for customers based on device, location and ISP, “providing better visual quality and fewer interruptions even when internet connection speeds are slow or highly variable.”

“We are excited to announce that starting today, fans around the world have access to Prime Video,” said Tim Leslie, vice president of International for Prime Video, in a statement. “The Grand Tour and other critically acclaimed Amazon Original Series like TransparentMozart in the Jungle, and The Man in the High Castle, along with hundreds of popular Hollywood movies and TV shows, are now available at the introductory price of only $2.99 a month. And what’s really exciting is that we are just getting started.”

RELATED: Amazon's global expansion to inflate video budget to $7B in 2017: analyst

As for what comes next for Amazon, it could come down to going after local content rights. Amazon has clearly already locked down international distribution rights for some of its biggest shows but some analysts predict the company could seek more local offerings in order to attract more customers in foreign markets. That sort of strategy could end of inflating the company’s already large content budget.

Jefferies analyst Brian Fitzgerald estimated that Amazon’s video content budget for 2016 was between $4 billion and $5 billion, but that the cost of international expansion to nearly 200 countries could drive that total up another $1 billion to $2 billion in 2017.

“That would bring AMZN's annual content expenditure in line with Netflix, which disclosed ~$6B content budget on P&L basis for 2017. AMZN management highlighted on the last earnings call that content was among the top three categories in which the company was, and planned to continue, investing. On the call, CFO Oslavsky said that ‘video content and marketing associated with that’ was nearly doubling Y/Y in 2H16,” Fitzgerald said in a research note.

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