Amazon is gunning for Netflix more aggressively with a new pricing scheme.
The e-commerce giant is now offering its video-streaming service in the U.S. independent of the Prime free-shipping program. Purchased separately, Prime Video will cost $8.99 per month — one dollar less than Netflix’s most popular plan.
Since Amazon launched its subscription video service five years ago, it has been available only through the Prime membership program, which currently costs $99 per year. The company has used video as a key benefit to lure more customers to Prime, but Amazon sees a ripe opportunity to sell an SVOD service priced directly to compete with Netflix as well as Hulu.
The move comes just as Netflix, the No. 1 subscription VOD player, is set to raise rates for subscribers who are currently paying $7.99 per month for the two-stream HD service to $9.99 in May. Amazon Prime Video allows up to three concurrent streams per account and offers select titles in 4K Ultra HD and HDR formats. Hulu, meanwhile, sells a $7.99-per-month service with ads and an $11.99 option without commercials.
In addition, Amazon is offering a new payment option for full Prime membership of $10.99 monthly, with no annual commitment. That’s 33% more than than the $99 annual Prime membership, but Amazon said many customers have been asking for month-to-month flexibility with the program.
The new options will begin showing up for Amazon users starting Sunday evening at amazon.com/prime, with all U.S. users scheduled to have access to them by Monday morning. The new monthly pricing options for Prime and Prime Video are available only in the U.S.; each of the plans offers a 30-day free trial.
Prime includes unlimited free shipping on millions of products; Prime Video, which includes tens of thousands of TV episodes and movies, including original series and films; unlimited access to more than a million songs with Prime Music; unlimited secure photo storage; and other benefits.
Like Netflix and Hulu, Amazon has been investing in exclusive original content as well as striking exclusive licensing pacts. Amazon Studios original series include “Transparent,” “Mozart in the Jungle,” “Catastrophe,” “Bosch,” “The Man in the High Castle,” “Red Oaks” and “Hand of God.”
This year, Prime Video also will launch Woody Allen’s first-ever TV series, plus David E. Kelley’s new series starring Billy Bob Thorten, as well as the third seasons of “Transparent” and “Mozart in the Jungle” and kids’ series including “Tumble Leaf,” “Thunderbirds are Go” and an “American Girls” live-action special.
Licensed TV shows on Prime Video include “Downton Abbey,” “The Good Wife,” “Doctor Who,” “Vikings,” “The Americans,” “Orphan Black,” “Suits,” and older HBO programming including “Boardwalk Empire” and “Veep,” as well as movies including “The Hunger Games,” “Interstellar” and “Ex Machina.”
In addition, any of the Prime membership options also provide access to add-on subscriptions from Showtime, Starz and other video services.