Amazon muscling into Web-based TV

Apparently not content to just sell DVDs of TV shows on its retail site and log the occasional VoD sale, Amazon is reportedly lining up partners such as NBC Universal, Time Warner (NYSE: TWC-WI) and Viacom (NYSE: VIA) to essentially rent videos and TV shows as part of a monthly subscription plan.

If this sounds something like what Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) is planning and Google (Nasdaq: GOOG) is searching for, that's because it is. It's all part of the drive by non-cable entertainment and/or service providers to get into the video delivery space. In this case, the cable names Amazon has allegedly lined up make this deal more interesting.

Supposedly all these non-cable guys are forcing a shift away from conventional cable--and even conventional cable set-tops and televisions--into the ether. The thing is, that ether requires a device to receive the services so whether it's Apple, Google or Amazon, it's back to the drawing board for new hardware or an alliance with an existing hardware-based company like an MSO.

The biggest threat to cable from all the services is price. A la carte programming, despite the difficulty of getting it on a TV set, could be enough to push more subscribers away from cable's bundled programming packages. On the other hand, cable controls the content and the price so, perhaps like selling to telcos and satellite, the market will just shift slightly as cable maintains the subscriber base it craves--the bundled multi-play user--and sheds the unwanted low-line subs.

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