Amazon’s Prime members just got a new perk: Showtime and Starz, unbundled and cheap. The internet company launched a new initiative called “Streaming Partners Program” Tuesday that allows Prime members to add subscription programming from close to 20 partners for an added fee to their Prime video service.
Some of the add-on programming includes Showtime, Starz, the Lifetime Movie Club, AMC’s Shudder and SundanceNow subscription services, Comedy Central’s Standup+ Service, Acorn TV, Dramafever, the Dove Channel, IndieFlix and Ring TV Boxing. Consumers will be able to pick and choose these add-ons on an a la carte basis, and change their lineup month to month.
It’s the first time that Starz is available to consumers outside of a traditional pay TV bundle; Starz CEO Chris Albrecht has in the past talked about embracing OTT, but the premium network has trailed its competitors HBO and Showtime in launching a standalone service. Albrecht said in a statement that he was excited to be an Amazon launch partner, adding: “This is a terrific product for customers to conveniently navigate their entertainment options quickly, easily and anywhere.”
Add-on subscriptions are available through Amazon’s video app on Android, iOS, Kindle Fire, Roku, Fire TV and other supported devices, which the company touts as an easier way to consume subscription video services. Consumers can, however, also use their Amazon credentials to log into the stand-alone apps of participating services, which will be good news to anyone looking to stream any of this programming on Chromecast or Apple TV. Amazon is currently embroiled in a dispute with both companies, and has yet to extend Prime video support to their platforms.
At least in some cases, it’s also cheaper: Showtime will be available for just $8.99 a month, compared to the $10.99 a month a user pays when subscribing through Apple’s iTunes store or Google Play. However, Hulu is also reselling Showtime for $8.99 a month as part of its effort to build a similar a la carte bouquet on top of its existing subscription service.
Amazon has plans to add additional partners to the program in the future, which could include sports and at some point possibly even live programming. Reports about Amazon launching a la carte video subscriptions for Prime members first surfaced last week. At the time, industry sources told Variety that some services had declined to be part of the initiative because they didn’t like the idea of having Amazon handle their customer relationship.
However, that same argument goes both ways, especially for existing TV networks that have long relied on pay-TV operators as middlemen to market and sell their service. A network like Starz, for example, doesn’t have to build out its own billing infrastructure and customer service operations by selling through Amazon. The online retailer even handles all the streaming, taking away the need to strike separate contracts with content delivery networks.
In exchange, Amazon takes a cut of the subscription fees, which likely depends on the size of the provider. Company spokespeople declined to go into details about their contractual relationships with program partners during a briefing with Variety Monday.