Commentary

Netflix, Meet Amazon. It's Nipping at Your Video Heels.

Remember when MySpace ruled the social media world and Facebook was just a quiet up and comer? Or when Yahoo was your first stop for searching before Google came around? How about when Netflix was the Michael Jordan of streaming video? A company that could do no wrong, that could only ride the growth comet, a company cited time and again as an example of how to innovate and stay relevant in a mad, changing digital world?

I remember that, too. Because it was only, you know, a couple months ago.

Now, Netflix is a laughing stock of Wall Street following a handful of bone-headed moves this summer, which raises the question of whether Amazon could slide in and woo some Netflix customers over to its streaming video service. To be sure, Amazon’s streaming offerings are not as robust as those on Netflix — about 11,000 titles to about 51,000. Plus, nearly 30% of all residential downstream Web traffic at peak times is comprised of Netflix streaming, a massive amount. So it’ll take a while to knock Netflix from its perch.

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But Amazon could do it. The company is hungry for content deals, as evidenced by its Fox pact last month to stream several movies and TV shows including “24” and “Arrested Development,” as well as the CBS deal Amazon inked this summer for about 2,000 episodes of TV shows. Add to that the Kindle Fire debuting next month. Pre-orders for the tablet are exceeding expectations to the tune of millions more being built than planned, the company has said. The Kindle Fire will enable video viewing. Amazon also said in its earnings call last week that it expected to purchase more content for Instant Video and Prime Instant Video in the fourth quarter, adding that many customers are requesting free trials of Prime Instant Video and then converting based on those trials.

Personally, I am still a huge fan and regular user of Netflix streaming and DVDs. And every time I hunt for other movies or shows to see on Amazon I come up short — there is rarely anything I want to see. But, markets and preferences are fickle and change with the wind. The shine is off Netflix and the timing couldn’t be better for an already powerful company like Amazon to snare the disgruntled customers with its online video offering.

Amazon has an opening. Will it take it, and can it succeed?

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