First Netflix. Then HBO. And now, Amazon, is going after YouTube's lunch. The e-commerce giant is opening its doors to video creators through a new service it's calling Amazon Video Direct, even launching a program called "Amazon Video Direct Stars" to directly court YouTube's top "stars" with big payouts.
The online retail giant will now allow content makers to upload their own video creations to Amazon — and make money through subscriptions or advertising. And if that sounds like Amazon is trying to become YouTube, that’s because it is.
They're also addressing a huge source of pain for YouTube creators, who consistently lament that they don't make enough money. On that front, Amazon has an attractive deal: for creators who make it into Amazon's top 100, they'll pay an additional $1 million a month.
Amazon Video Direct has at least 19 companies signed up to use the service thus far, including Condé Nast, Machinima and Samuel Goldwyn Pictures, but anyone can use it. People uploading through the service have the ability to choose where and how exactly their customers can see their video: free on Amazon Prime (for Prime members), free with ads, via rental or actual purchase, or even as part of a subscription service. It’s also global, though not, perhaps, in the way streaming giant Netflix is — creators can make their videos available in the U.S., Germany, Austria, the U.K. and Japan.
These videos won’t live in a separate section of Amazon Video, cordoned off from Amazon-produced or paid-for content like “Transparent” or “Man in the High Castle,” at least not according to a cursory poke around the Amazon Video section, which returned several short-form documentaries and films from these partners.
Rumors have swirled for months now about a live Amazon TV package, focusing on the idea that CEO Jeff Bezos was coming after the TV industry. They bid for the streaming rights to NFL’s Thursday Night Football package (Twitter ended up snagging them); inked a deal with the NFL to exclusively run a new NFL Films docuseries, “All or Nothing” (free with ads for all Amazon customers); and dipped into live TV with their own nightly fashion show “Style Code Live.”
But put together with the acquisition of live video-game streaming site Twitch in 2014 and their “unbundling” of Prime Video from the larger Prime service, it’s more apparent now that merely being another TV company was far too small potatoes for Bezos. They want to be a one-stop shop for video of all kinds: live, bite-sized, long-form, feature-length and, perhaps most importantly, global.
It goes beyond video, of course, and even beyond figuring out a way to stake a claim on possibly billions of ad dollars. Amazon has created an actual one-stop general shop for consumers, and a paradise of an ad environment for marketers. You can watch a branded video produced by Machinima, order the game touted in the video while in the same browser tab, have it delivered via Amazon Prime, and then stream yourself playing it on Twitch. It’s only a wonder Amazon Video Direct took until 2016 to happen.