Amazon.com now has a new content licensing agreement with HBO that makes Prime Instant Video the exclusive online-only subscription home for select HBO programming.
The deal includes The Sopranos, Six Feet Under, The Wire, Big Love, Deadwood, Eastbound & Down, Family Tree, Enlightened, Treme, early seasons of Boardwalk Empire and True Blood, mini-series Band of Brothers and John Adams.
Previous seasons of other HBO shows, such as Girls, The Newsroom and Veep will become available over the course of the multi-year agreement, three years after airing on HBO.
The first wave of content will arrive on Prime Instant Video May 21, 2014. This is the first time that HBO programming has been licensed to an online-only subscription streaming service, in addition to being shown on HBO platforms.
In addition, HBO GO, HBO’s streaming service, also will become available on Fire TV, by the end of 2014.
The deal is an example of the potential and limitations of online video entertainment, including both television and movie fare. HBO is licensing more content to Amazon Prime’s Instant Video service without undermining HBOs revenue from deals with its video distributor partners.
As is typical, the deal keeps the release window format, allowing HBO to maintain exclusivity for first-run content sold as part of the video subscriptions HBO sells only with its subscription video distributor partners (cable TV, satellite TV and telco TV providers).
At the same time, HBO is able to generate incremental revenue by unbundling some older HBO shows after the intended commercial value of the programs has been unlocked.
Amazon, like other over the top providers, also secures some amount of content exclusivity that makes Amazon Prime unique, something virtually all other major online video providers also seek.
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On the other hand, many subscribers likely now find themselves buying multiple video subscriptions--a cable TV, satellite TV or telco TV service, plus Netflix, plus Amazon Prime Instant Video, for example, since each service offers at least some differentiated content, not simply linear or over the top, on-demand delivery.
Ultimately, no major changes in the video business until the major content owners decide it is time to diversify. For the moment, that generally means licensing older content for third-party streaming services.
The big breakthrough will come as one or more major networks decides to enable both streaming and linear delivery of the latest content, simultaneously. But as with most other developments in the streaming video business, change is coming, little by little.
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