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Amazon Takes on YouTube and Others, Opening Video Platform to All Creators

Initial partners include Conde Nast, Samuel Goldwyn Films, Machinima, StyleHaul

Amazon, which touts itself as Earth’s biggest store, has officially launched its bid to be the place to watch any kind of video under the sun.

With the launch of Amazon Video Direct, open to any video creator, the e-commerce giant will compete head-to-head with Google’s YouTube for video-ad dollars and views as well as other big Internet video distributors like Facebook and Vimeo.

Partners participating in Amazon Video Direct have four distribution options. They can make their content available to Prime Video subscribers and receive a per-hour royalty fee; it can be sold as an add-on subscription through the Streaming Partners Program; it can be offered for digital rental or purchase; or it can be made available to all Amazon customers for free with ads, and creators will receive a 55% share of the ad revenue (the same as YouTube).

Amazon will pay partners 50% of the retail price for digital purchases, rentals and subscription fees. If they choose Prime Video distribution, creators will earn royalties of 15 cents per hour streamed in the U.S. and 6 cents in other territories (capped at $75,000 per year) under the standard terms.

At launch, AVD partners include: Conde Nast Entertainment, HowStuffWorks, Samuel Goldwyn Films, the Guardian, Mashable, Mattel, StyleHaul, Kin Community, Jash, Business Insider, Machinima, TYT Network, Baby Einstein, CJ Entertainment America, Xive TV, Synergetic Distribution, Kino Nation, Journeyman Pictures and Pro Guitar Lessons.

Amazon also is launching the “AVD Stars” program, a bonus pool of $1 million per month to reward top-performing video creators and give them an incentive to add their content to Prime Video. The company will dole out a monthly bonus from $1 million fund, based on the top 100 Amazon Video Direct titles in Prime Video, on top of the revenue partners have earned. The AVD Stars fund is eligible to providers who stream content starting on June 1.

Amazon’s pitch to video creators: They can now get exposure to the site’s millions of online shoppers, with the flexibility of picking among several different paths for making money.

“There are more options for distribution than ever before and with Amazon Video Direct, for the first time, there’s a self-service option for video providers to get their content into a premium streaming subscription service,” Amazon Video VP Jim Freeman said in announcing the program. “We’re excited to make it even easier for content creators to find an audience, and for that audience to find great content.”

The move comes after Amazon introduced the option to subscribe to Prime Video for $8.99 per month in the U.S. as a standalone service; previously, it was available only through the Prime $99-per-year membership program.

Among Amazon’s initial batch of AVD partners, Samuel Goldwyn Films president Peter Goldwyn extolled the new range of distribution options. “With Amazon Video Direct, we have the control to create the unique distribution strategies that reflect the changing ways in which our audiences discover our films,” he said.

StyleHaul, the fashion video network that has built its business on YouTube, said it will bring a selection of its original series to Prime Video, including fashion drama “Vanity” starring Denise Richards. “We believe Amazon Prime members will enjoy the unique female voices featured in our content and be inspired by the fashion and beauty that our brand embodies,” said Mia Goldwyn, chief content officer of StyleHaul.

Video publishers can sign up for Amazon Video Direct at videodirect.amazon.com. The Prime Video streaming service is currently available only in the U.S., the U.K., Germany, Austria and Japan.

Amazon said AVD’s benefits include support for all the devices Amazon Video is available on, including iOS and Android tablets and phones, connected TVs, Amazon Fire TV devices and game consoles. The company also said it will provide detailed performance metrics, such as number of minutes a title was streamed, projected revenue, payment history and number of subscribers, and that video partners will have full control to make changes based on the data.

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