Amazon snares classic HBO shows in deal
Fans of classic HBO shows like The Sopranos and The Wire will soon have access to those series and more through Amazon's Prime service in the first online streaming deal signed by the cable network.
Starting on May 21, Amazon Prime members — who pay $99 US a year for streaming entertainment, two-day shipping and other perks — will also have access to Six Feet Under, Big Love, as well as early seasons of Boardwalk Empire and True Blood.
Past seasons of newer shows such as Girls, The Newsroom and Veep will also become available throughout the multi-year deal, about three years after airing on HBO.
Original movies including Too Big to Fail and Game Change will also become available, as will original comedy specials from Lewis Black, Louis C.K., Ellen DeGeneres and Bill Maher.
There was no mention of Game of Thrones, one of the most pirated shows in history. Other shows such as Sex and the City and Entourage were also left out of the deal.
Competition with Netflix, Hulu
The exclusive HBO deal is a big win for Amazon, which is competing with Netflix and Hulu for streaming viewers as more people cut the cord on cable services. Time Warner, which owns HBO, has long seen Netflix as a threat to HBO and has steadfastly refused to licence even its old shows to the company for streaming.
Netflix announced its first price hike in three years this week to help pay for more original programming, such as House of Cards. Shares of Netflix dropped nearly 4 percent Wednesday following the announcement.
Amazon, too, raised the price of Prime in January from $79 US a year, which had not changed since the company introduced the service in 2005. Back then, Prime did not include online streaming. But Amazon steadily expanded into new areas, not just movie streaming but e-readers and grocery delivery. There are even reports of a new, Amazon smartphone.
Amazon and HBO did not disclose the financial terms of the deal, nor its duration.
HBO Go, the network's streaming service that's currently only available to subscribers, will also be offered on Amazon's new streaming device, Fire TV, likely by the end of the year. The $99 US device streams online video, music and other content to televisions, competing with the likes of Apple Inc. .
The Amazon-HBO deal comes the same week that TV broadcasters are facing off at the U.S. Supreme Court with TV-over-the-Internet provider Aereo, which offers live broadcast television for a monthly fee.
Shares of Seattle-based Amazon fell $3.92 to 325.40 in late morning trading amid a broader market decline.