See, guys? See? That Amazon Prime price hike—already one of the best deals around—wasn’t such a bad thing after all. The online giant just snuggled up to one of the most sought after premium cable channels on the market, signing a multi-year deal that will bring tons of great content to the Amazon Instant Video ecosystem. And the deal is exclusive, too, meaning Netflix, one of Amazon Instant Video’s biggest competitors, is looking a little vulnerable, especially after announcing a price hike of its own.
When promoting Amazon Prime, and even its Fire TV set-top box, the company now has a huge diamond to flash around. Look, HBO shows. The online company has pretty much been bestowed with an a la carte version of HBO Go, which essentially amounts to the Holy Grail for cord cutters. Granted, HBO stipulates that shows won’t be available on Amazon Instant Video until three years after their original air date, but you still get content such as The Wire, Eastbound & Down, The Sopranos and more. You won’t be able to find those on Netflix, or anywhere else for that matter, unless you already pay for HBO.
HBO has long resisted the temptation of a standalone service, opting instead to stay faithful to its premium cable status. But now anyone with an Internet connection and a Prime subscription can jump into HBO’s award winning ecosystem. You’ll be able to watch Band of Brothers, The Pacific and a number of documentaries whenever you want, from wherever. I’ve always wanted to check out Deadwood, and now I can without paying the extra monthly fee on top of my already large cable bill. That $20 price hike Amazon announced earlier this year was totally worth it.
This will hopefully be a taste of what’s to come from Amazon, too. Now that it has a set-top box and a ton of original content on the way, Amazon is clearly getting super serious about becoming the leading TV streaming service. Netflix has long been the defacto choice in streaming, and there’s no reason to suggest that will change. But Amazon is making a huge effort to challenge for the title, and having HBO content is a big first step. You won’t get shows like Game of Thrones or True Detective just yet, but this could lead to much more exclusive content down the road.
Let’s quickly examine Amazon Instant Video’s list of exclusives: MTV, Comedy Central, VH1, 24, Veronica Mars, Downton Abbey, Under the Dome, and a ton of Nickelodeon shows. And there’s much, much more. This is stuff you won’t find anywhere else. Amazon’s service is quickly turning into a cord cutter’s wonderland. If you can handle not seeing the very latest episodes of a show, or the need for live TV, you now have even less of a reason to sign up for traditional cable. In addition to these good old fashion cable shows, Amazon is also working on its own original content, which will help bolster the appeal of Amazon Instant Video even more.
Even better, this deal shows that HBO maybe willing to one day offer its entire ecosystem without the hassle of a cable subscription. HBO can still go about doing its regular business with distributors, but it can also get a taste of what life is like without cable TV providers. The post-cable era, if you will, which we’re rapidly heading toward already. HBO can cover its bases while preparing for an Internet-only future—and ultimately customers like you and me win.
Netflix is probably bummed; the service has long emulated the premium cable channel, and always saw it as a huge competitor. Now Amazon can flaunt its service with HBO in its corner, which is a huge coup. Maybe this is a blessing in disguise for Netflix. The Los Gatos company has already proved it can create Emmy winning original content, so perhaps this news will push Netflix to create even better TV in the future.
In any case, this news is great for consumers, and bad news for cable companies still trying to adapt to streaming services. If HBO is willing to accept the future of TV, what’s next? That’s exciting for consumers, and means cutting the cord is that much easier. You still won’t be able to watch the latest episodes of Game of Thrones. But, who knows, maybe this deal is the first step toward a cable-free world.
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