Does Amazon Prime Have to Catch Netflix?

Google was the first, and so far perhaps the most successful software company to build a big business using an advertising revenue model. But content has played a significant role for Apple, which uses content to create value for its device sales, and Amazon, which uses content as a value driver for its subscription shipping program, Amazon Prime.

So while it is useful to note how well those, and other providers, will be in the coming subscription streaming business (market share or revenue, for example), “success” will be a more nuanced issue.

Consider a finding that Amazon Prime subscribers in the United States are more likely to use Netflix than Prime Instant Video, according to Strategy Analytics.

About 63 percent of Amazon Prime subscribers used Netflix in the previous month compared to 59 percent who used Prime Instant Video. In other words, slightly more Amazon Prime customers used Netflix streaming video more than the Amazon Prime service.

So is that a problem, or not? “Amazon is needlessly ‘losing’ users to Netflix when, in fact, it should be eating into their user base,” says Leika Kawasaki, Strategy Analytics digital media analyst.

On the other hand, says Kawasaki, Amazon is taking “significant steps” to boost value.

Still, “in contrast to countries such as the UK and Germany, Americans are more likely to subscribe to Amazon Prime for free two-day shipping than for Prime Instant Video,” said Kawasaki.

So whether Amazon Prime needs to best Netflix in narrow terms (which firm has more customers, or which firm makes the most money) might not be the most significant issue.

Amazon Prime streaming might be viewed somewhat as Apple views its own content services: as a means to an end. For Apple, content helps it sell more devices. For Amazon, content is both a product and a way to sell more products.

Some consumers probably view Amazon Prime as a value added feature of a two-day free shipping “product,” and not as a stand-alone streaming service.

Given the disparity in catalog, it is hard to see why a rational consumer would directly compared Amazon Prime and Netflix strictly as sources of content. Netflix wins. Period.

On the other hand, Amazon Prime is a vehicle to upsell more video content, as well as a value to boost its free shipping program.

In that view, Amazon Prime does not have to be too close to Netflix, in terms of viewers or direct revenue.

Nor does it necessarily matter that more people with Amazon Prime subscriptions watch Netflix.

They might be heavier video consumers than average. They might rationally recognize that the Netflix catalog is more varied. And, in most cases, they might simply view Amazon Prime as a value add for a shipping service, not a full competitor to Netflix.
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