Amazon Prime Video has gone global. The streaming service is now available in more than 200 countries and territories, Amazon said Wednesday, putting it in direct competition with Netflix, which had its own global rollout earlier this year.
The territories where Prime Video is now available – at PrimeVideo.com – span virtually every region of the world, and include both developing and mature markets, from Southeast Asia to Africa to Western Europe. As with Netflix, however, the service is not available in China.
Although some kind of international expansion by Amazon Prime Video had long been expected, the timing of the announcement caught some observers by surprise. Several Amazon executives, including Tim Leslie, VP, international, Prime Video, were in India on Wednesday to unveil the streaming service in that country. There was no indication a wider rollout would be announced on the same day.
“It was well-known that Amazon was going to expand. We didn’t know it would do so quite so rapidly, but given Netflix did the same thing about a year ago, it’s not that surprising,” said Guy Bisson at Ampere Analysis.
In a prepared statement, Amazon said that Amazon Prime members in Belgium, Canada, France, India, Italy, and Spain could begin watching Wednesday at no additional cost to their subscription. Customers in the other new Prime Video territories can sign up at an introductory rate of $2.99 per month for the first six months, starting with a seven-day free trial, at PrimeVideo.com. Bisson said that the service “looks competitively priced,” as the $2.99 charge in smaller territories is way below Netflix’s range of $8.50 to $12.70.
Subscribers can watch through the Amazon Prime Video app on Android and iOS phones, and tablets, Fire Tablets and select LG and Samsung smart TVs; they can also download movies and TV shows for offline viewing. Subscribers can watch in English, with French, Italian, Portuguese, and Spanish subtitled and dubbed versions also available for many titles.
“We are excited to announce that starting today, fans around the world have access to Prime Video,” Leslie said in the statement. “And what’s really exciting is that we are just getting started.”
Among the TV shows available is “The Grand Tour,” the new automotive series hosted by Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond and James May. Shortly before its premiere last month, Amazon said the show would be watchable in more than 200 territories starting in December, and Clarkson tweeted: “People of Ireland, Canada, Australia and pretty well everywhere else. You WILL be able to watch the Grand Tour. Amazon has gone global.” But the company gave no indication of how the show would be accessed in countries that did not already have Amazon Prime Video.
Other Amazon Original Series instantly available to subscribers include “The Man in the High Castle,” “Transparent,” “Mozart in the Jungle,” and “Tumble Leaf.” Additional series – such as Woody Allen’s “Crisis in Six Scenes,” David E. Kelley’s “Goliath” with Billy Bob Thornton, the docu series “American Playboy: The Hugh Hefner Story,” and “Sneaky Pete,” produced by Bryan Cranston and Graham Yost and starring Giovanni Ribisi – will be added to the service next year.
The company said that hundreds of television programs and movies from “top networks and Hollywood studios” are available to stream now.
Stuart Baxter, president of eOne Television Intl., welcomed the news of Prime Video’s worldwide expansion.”The emergence of another truly global proposition is a good thing for the industry,” he said. “I expect my sales guys to be engaging with them.”
But one question that Prime Video’s global launch raises is what effect it will have on movie acquisition around the world. In the U.S., Amazon Prime Video offered about 18,000 titles and Netflix 4,500 in March 2016, according to the Video Advertising Bureau. But internationally, for subscription VOD at least, Amazon doesn’t have the rights to the vast majority of those movies.
“A very interesting question is the extent to which Amazon will attempt to replicate its U.S. movie model globally,” said Francois Godard at Enders Analysis, adding that the company will “tend to try to do global deals for film rights, as much as it can.”
Analysts also questioned whether Prime Video is setting out to be a profit center or loss leader for Amazon Prime.
“If you look at the content spend of Amazon, it’s absolutely tiny, about 2% to 3% [of revenue], compared with 60% at Netflix. Netflix is a pure content business, while Amazon clearly is not,” Bisson said. “If it boosts Amazon Prime, Amazon Prime Video doesn’t necessarily have to make lots of money or any money.”
Amazon could also be facing new regulations in Europe. Earlier this year, the European Commission proposed a new bill to get streaming services to contribute to the financing of European production. Under the bill, services such as Amazon and Netflix would have to pay a percentage of their revenues to national film funds in the countries where they operate.
John Hopewell, Elsa Keslassy, and Henry Chu contributed to this article.