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Amazon Starts Building Its Own Bundle by Selling Showtime, Starz and More With Amazon Prime

Small steps, but interesting steps.

Peter Kafka covers media and technology, and their intersection, at Vox. Many of his stories can be found in his Kafka on Media newsletter, and he also hosts the Recode Media podcast.

Amazon has a new weapon to boost its video streaming service against competitors like Netflix and YouTube: Other people’s streaming services.

Starting today, Amazon will give its Amazon Prime subscribers — who already get access to Amazon’s homegrown streaming service — the ability to buy other subscription video services, like Showtime.

For now, Amazon isn’t doing much more than creating a way for Amazon users to manage multiple subscription services from a single billing and distribution hub — the same way Apple does through its Apple TV box.

But people briefed on Amazon’s plans say the company intends to package some of the services it is selling individually into different bundles, presumably at a discount from the normal per-channel price. So that could be interesting. So is the notion that it’s using Prime as a way to sell other third-party services — a new idea for Amazon.

Bloomberg first reported last month that Amazon was looking to sell other subscription services.

Amazon’s service already appears to be gaining a bit of momentum. Yesterday, broadband service company Sandvine said Amazon video accounted for 3.11 percent of prime-time Internet streaming, up from 1.61 percent a year ago.

In the meantime, Amazon’s move isn’t going to shake up the video business. Its most prominent new partner, CBS’s Showtime, is already available as a stand-alone Web service. Earlier this year, rival video service Hulu offered its own bundle by selling Showtime on the Web for $9 a month, a $2 discount to the service’s standalone price; Amazon will also sell Showtime for $9 a month.

Amazon will also sell online subscriptions for Starz, which is the first time that Liberty’s premium pay TV service has been offered online. But if you can name one of Starz’ homegrown shows, there is a good chance that you work at Starz.

Other prominent online subscription services, including HBO Now, Netflix and Major League Baseball’s MLB.TV, aren’t for sale via Amazon Prime — even though they do work with Amazon video hardware, like its Fire TV box.

The remainder of Amazon’s initial subscription offerings are either new and/or low-profile subscription services from online-only services like Defy Media’s Screen Junkies Plus, which launched last month, or ancillary online-only services from pay TV channels like AMC’s Sundance (Sundance Doc Club) and A&E (Lifetime Movie Club).

There are also a few other services that are exclusive to Amazon, including something from Comedy Central called “Comedy Central Stand-Up Plus,” which will cost $4 a month. Other exclusives come from distributors you likely haven’t heard of, including BroadbandTV, which is selling something called HooplaKidz Plus for $6 a month.

In other words: If you’re looking to build your own version of cable TV’s bundles, this isn’t going to help you, because the TV networks aren’t letting Amazon resell their most valuable stuff. And since most of the stuff that Amazon is letting its Prime subscribers buy is available elsewhere on the Web, this isn’t going to be a revelation for hardcore Web video viewers, either.

Still, Amazon has a big digital footprint that’s only going to get bigger. And if it wants to give this stuff a serious promotional push, it certainly can. And if that works, then maybe Amazon has a better shot at shaking things up.

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