With PlayStation 3 deal Amazon is looking bigger in Netflix's mirror

editor's corner

Jim O'Neil

So, is Amazon (Nasdaq: AMZN) really serious about playing in the streaming media space? It certainly wasn't the first player to follow Netflix online with a streaming play, launching a very thin Amazon Prime Instant Video library to a lot of skepticism a little more than a year ago.

But the company's product has been on a roll of late, gobbling up content deals like a bodybuilder gobbles up protein powder.

Last month it announced a deal to add content from Discovery, in February, it added titles from Viacom, and, suddenly, its streaming content library looks like it's adding some much-need muscle.

Now, after months of questions about when, and which one, Prime Instant Video finally has a home on a gaming console; thus, it has finally joined the big kids in the deep end of the streaming pool.

The Seattle-based company announced it was going to make its content available on Sony's PlayStation 3, and, for the record, there have been some 20 million of them sold in the United States. With an estimated subscriber base of 3 million to 5 million souls for Prime, Amazon has to see the PS3 as one more way to capture more subs. The PS3 opens up a whole new audience, generally a younger one, to Prime.

The addition of an Amazon Instant Video app to the popular gaming console without question makes Amazon a more formidable challenger to Netflix (Nasdaq: NFLX), Vudu and Hulu, as well as other streaming services.

Subscribers to the e-tailers Prime shipping service, a $79 a year deal that gives users two-day shipping upgrades on many products, get unlimited titles from the Prime Instant Video service, which has grown its library to some 17,000 TV and film titles, as well as 120,000 titles that can be bought or rented.

The company said the PS3 app includes smart lists like "Recently Watched," "Next Episode" and "Personal Recommendations." The lists appear on the home screen of the PS3 system app and update dynamically based on what customers watch and buy.

"PlayStation 3 is a powerful home entertainment system and is incredibly popular with our customers. Since the launch of Prime Instant Videos one of the top customer requests has been to provide customers with an app for PlayStation 3," said Bill Carr, VP of video and music at Amazon. "Pushbutton, which we acquired specifically for their expertise in TV entertainment app development, has done a fantastic job of developing our best video app yet. We are excited to deliver the PS3 app to customers today."

Amazon Prime already is available on connected TVs and other connected devices like Blu-ray players, TiVo and Roku set-top boxes, he said.

Carr, meanwhile, declined to say whether the service would eventually be available on the Xbox, the best-selling gaming console in the U.S., although Amazon's LoveFilm business already does offer streaming titles on the iPad and Xbox in the United Kingdom. There's little doubt Amazon would love to do the same for its fledgling service in the U.S.

Its subscriber base here pales next to Netflix's estimated 22 million-plus, and so Amazon is still likely just a speck in Netflix's rear-view mirror. But, its accelerating content deals and device additions like the PS3 would make it wise for Netflix execs to pay heed to the warning in that mirror that "objects in mirror are closer than they appear."--Jim