Amazon is escalating the battle among video streaming services. Amazon prime

The online retailer has flipped the switch on Amazon Instant Video, a ‘free’ streaming service for paying members of its Amazon Prime program. The service is squarely targeted at the growing service Netflix has been building over the past few years, with over 5,000 titles – and a lower monthly cost.

Amazon Prime members already pay $79 per year for free two-day shipping. (Student and trial subscriptions are not eligible to receive the service.) Even if they never take advantage of that once, the monthly cost for this streaming service works out to $6.50 per month, $1.50 less than Netflix’s least expensive service.

The catalog of video content is wide reaching and includes recent movies and a lot of television programs that are very similar to those offered by Netflix, with some differentiating features. For instance, if you’re interested in watching the original “The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet's Nest,” you can do so both with subtitles or dubbed – whichever suits your fancy.

Amazon has a big enough footprint on enough devices to be a bigger competitor to Netflix than Hulu’s streaming service. The company is already integrated into many newer Internet-enabled TVs and the Roku set top box. Amazon and Tivo are also partners, but the service does not appear to be available on those boxes, yet. Netflix does have the advantage of being available on all three video game consoles, however.

It’s a service in its early days and early criticism is being centered on the quality of the content – but when you factor in Hulu’s recent coup of grabbing the Criterion Collection from Netfllix, the streaming media battle is getting a lot more interesting.

Filed Under:

Follow @Variety on Twitter for breaking news, reviews and more