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Amazon and HBO Team Up in Content Distribution Deal

Devoted fans of HBO shows like “Six Feet Under” and “True Blood” have reason to celebrate today: Amazon and HBO just announced a licensing agreement that will give access to select HBO content to Prime subscribers. Starting on May 21, popular older shows and movies, as well as select current content, will be available to members of Amazon Prime through its unlimited video streaming feature.  HBO-logo


But what really matters is the ability for users to access HBO’s content across devices and platforms; and it makes Amazon and HBO two of the first brands to buck the trend of making consumers choose between cable and Internet for entertainment. The Amazon and HBO partnership signals a possible future in which cable networks and Internet entertainment providers merge to distribute content to as many viewers as possible. In a world where cord cutters are becoming less of an exception to the rule, cable networks should pay attention.

A content distribution win for Amazon

Amazon’s shift from ecommerce to content distribution has included buying rights to older content and creating its own, and its partnership with HBO follows that trend. But HBO has been notoriously stingy with its content—fans of shows like “The Sopranos” and “The Wire” couldn’t watch them without access to HBO GO or a DVD—so this partnership is a major win for Amazon.

Access to coveted HBO content is also a great way for Amazon’s Prime subscribers to justify the recent twenty-dollar price hike for membership. Responses to the increase have been mixed, but most agree that a single increase in almost a decade is acceptable. Still, for current members and prospective subscribers, shows from HBO could be enticing.

A content distribution win for HBO

HBO is one of the first subscription cable channels to embrace digital content distribution with HBO GO, allowing subscribers to watch their favorite movies and HBO originals on computers and a range of mobile devices. This deal with Amazon gives HBO the opportunity to reach a wider audience and a shot at bringing back cord cutters who have given up watching shows and movies on the channel.

Amazon is also bringing HBO GO to its new streaming video box, Fire TV. This move might not satisfy consumers who have called for a standalone HBO GO, but it’s one step closer to the kind of untethering that could deliver HBO the kind of audience members who have no use for a cable subscription.

As cable and Internet battle for audience share, the right to distribute content is becoming more valuable than the right to create it. But Amazon and HBO are betting that the best way to increase audience share is to share their audiences. If this experiment is successful, consumers can expect to see more partnerships like these in the future—and it could benefit viewers just as much as it benefits cable and Internet providers.

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