A challenger appears: Amazon Prime adds free video streaming to its service

Just this weekend, I was pondering the utter dominance of Netflix over the home video market while passing the sad shell of a former Blockbuster near my house, wondering if its reign would remain relatively unchallenged.

It seems Netflix may have its first really major competition, as Amazon has just added free video streaming to its popular shipping “club,” Amazon Prime. “Millions” of people currently subscribe to the $79 a year service (Amazon doesn’t like to broadcast sales numbers, it seems), and Amazon Prime users will now have an additional 5,000 or suchlike movies and TV shows available to stream to streamable devices. Amazon says:

“In addition to now offering unlimited, commercial-free, instant streaming of 5,000 movies and TV shows to Amazon Prime members, we continue to offer all customers more than 90,000 movies and TV shows through Amazon Instant Video,” said Cameron Janes, director of Amazon Instant Video. “With Amazon Instant Video customers can rent or purchase hit movies, such as ‘The Social Network’ as well as purchase the latest TV shows available the day-after they broadcast.”

Shaking out the freebies is easy- go to the Amazon Instant Video page, and sort for “Prime Eligible.” If you’ve got a free or trial Prime account, though, you’re not invited to the streaming orgy. (And though no service for Wii is available, Roku will stream Amazon Prime videos.) While the number of titles is small compared with Netflix, and Wii streaming is not available, do you think you’ll hang on to Prime instead of Netflix if you’re a subscriber of both? Does this feature add any value for you? Do you think people will begin phasing out Netflix subscriptions for the net-cheaper Amazon content, just paying extra for non-Prime titles?

[Press Release]