Here we go again: Amazon.com denied a Wall Street Journal report Thursday that the Internet retailing giant is working up a free, ad-supported TV and music-video service.
“We’re often experimenting with new things, but we have no plans to offer a free streaming-media service,” Amazon spokeswoman Sally Fouts said in an email.
In January, the company denied a WSJ report that it was seeking to license TV channels to launch a broadband-delivered television service.
Amazon does have a video-advertising business that currently includes programs like offering the first episode of a series for free, according to Fouts. In addition, the company sells ads associated with movie and game trailers, she added.
Earlier Thursday, the Journal reported that Amazon could launch the new ad-supported service in the coming months, but the report was sketchy on details. The service would “likely” feature original series, the newspaper reported, citing anonymous sources. That could potentially include Amazon Studios’ Silicon Valley comedy “Betas,” according to the report. The 11-episode “Betas” was one the retailer’s first original series launched last fall (and currently available only to members of the Prime free-shipping program), with the first three episodes available for free.
The free video content also “may include” licensed TV programming, according to the report. It’s worth noting that Amazon recently let programming deals with Discovery Communications and Scripps Networks Interactive expire for the Prime Instant Video service. So it’s not certain exactly what Amazon would be willing to pay to acquire rights for a free service, and whether it would be designed to compete with Hulu’s free offering with hundreds of TV shows.
Meanwhile, the company today announced a press event for next Wednesday in New York to announce “an update on our video business” with Peter Larsen, VP of Amazon’s Kindle division. That event could be the unveiling of Amazon’s streaming-media device, rumored to be a dongle-like adapter similar to Google’s Chromecast that would offer Prime Instant Video, Netflix, Hulu and other services.
Amazon Studios’ “Betas” launched last fall alongside political comedy “Alpha House” starring John Goodman. The company is unlikely to renew the series for a second season, but has discussed producing the show for the ad-supported streaming service, the WSJ reported.
Meanwhile, Amazon is gearing up to greenlight a second wave of original series. Out of the 10 pilots released last month for feedback, the company has ordered at least four — dramas “Bosch” and “The After” and comedies “Mozart in the Jungle” and “Transparent” — to full series, Variety reported.
Earlier this month, Amazon announced that it is raising the price of its Prime free-shipping program for U.S. members, from $79 to $99 per year. But the company has said rising content-licensing costs for Prime Instant Video did not figure into that price hike.