Amazon.com has been a game changer ever since founder Jeff Bezos started selling books over the Internet in 1995. It was the proverbial transformational moment that would change the face of retailing.
As Amazon branched out beyond books, one of its first forays was into homevideo, where its discounting of new DVDs put the big traditional retail chains on alert that they were no longer the only game in town. It didn’t take Amazon long to become one of the world’s biggest sellers of DVDs and then Blu-ray Disc, alongside Walmart, Target and Best Buy.
These days, Amazon is once again on the front lines of home entertainment with its Prime Instant Video movie and TV show streaming service, nipping at market leader Netflix’s heels and rolling out multiple innovations.
Like Netflix, Amazon is spending lots of money on original content. Last April, it launched an Internet video-streaming and gaming device, the $99 Fire TV, which not only streams Prime Instant Video content but also provides access to Netflix, Hulu Plus, YouTube and other services. Then, in October, Amazon unveiled a $39 stick-based streaming adapter for HDTVs, the Fire TV Stick.
Last month came two more big initiatives — one an official announcement, the other rumored: Amazon said it will bow 4K video streaming before the end of the year, while the New York Post reported that Amazon is gearing up to launch a free video service, supported by advertising, in the hopes of increasing its market share against Netflix — and tempting users to subscribe to Prime.
Amazon has denied the reports but in a statement to Engadget it reaffirmed its policy of “experimenting with new offers and experiences for customers.”
“Our main focus is always on the customer, and we spend the majority of our day figuring out how we can innovate on their behalf,” says Michael Paull, Amazon’s VP, digital video, pictured at left, who will accept on Amazon’s behalf. “On the digital video side, that means harnessing our capabilities in creative ways to build out a comprehensive video service with great movies and TV series and convenient, easy-to-use features that customers love such as ASAP, Second Screen and X-Ray.”
Paull adds, “Our service’s availability on so many devices has kept our customers from worrying about accessing their content on a new device.”
While streaming still dominates the digital business, he has high hopes for EST. “We see lots of customer interest in electronic sell-through. That’s why we’re making investments in a wide selection of content from new-release movies to in-season TV shows. We don’t break out exact numbers… (but) interest in EST is only growing, and I expect it to continue to be a healthy business for us.”