Bloomberg News

Amazon Challenges Netflix as Epix Deal Bolsters Its Movie Offerings

September 04, 2012

Amazon Challenges Netflix in Epix Deal Adding Films to Prime

Jennifer Lawrence in "The Hunger Games." Photographer: Murray Close/Lionsgate/Everett Collection

Sept. 4 (Bloomberg) -- Amazon.com Inc., ratcheting up competition with Netflix Inc. (NFLX:US), reached a deal with pay- television channel Epix to offer films such as “The Hunger Games” on the Amazon Prime Instant Video service.

The multiyear agreement increases the number of titles available on the Prime subscription service to 25,000 and marks a doubling since Amazon introduced the Kindle Fire media tablet a year ago, the Seattle-based company said today in a statement. Netflix shares (NFLX:US) fell the most in six weeks.

Amazon, the world’s largest online retailer, is expected to unveil an updated version of the Kindle Fire this week. The tablet comes with a free month of Amazon Prime, a service that costs $79 a year and includes free two-day shipping for online purchases and access to videos. Amazon has been expanding the videos offered for streaming on Prime to compete with Apple Inc.’s iPad and challenge Netflix.

“The goal for Amazon with tablets is to keep people in their ecosystem, and that’s what they’ve done by adding more content,” Edward Williams, an analyst at BMO Capital Markets in New York, said in an interview. “It removes some of the uniqueness of the Netflix content and makes the Amazon offering more competitive.”

Netflix sank 6.4 percent to $55.93 at the close in New York, the biggest decline since July 25, and has lost 19 percent this year. Amazon fell 0.2 percent to $247.88 and has gained 43 percent in 2012.

Epix Agreement

Amazon’s agreement with Epix lasts three years, according to a person familiar with the transaction who asked not to be identified because the terms aren’t public.

Reed Hastings, chief executive officer of Netflix, said in July the company didn’t anticipate being “affected significantly” when Epix movies became available on competing services.

“Epix is not a particularly large source of total viewing,” Hastings said on a call after the Los Gatos, California-based company reported second-quarter earnings.

Epix’s push to offer a mobile product for pay TV subscribers makes an exclusive streaming deal less valuable, Hastings said.

Annual Savings

By moving to a nonexclusive deal, Netflix will probably pay Epix $180 million a year, some $20 million less than it had paid for exclusivity, Tony Wible, an analyst with Janney Montgomery Scott LLC in Philadelphia, said in a research note today. Amazon probably is paying $100 million to $180 million a year for the same content, he said.

Cat Griffin, an Amazon spokeswoman, declined to comment.

Programming covered by Amazon’s agreement includes movies from the owners of Epix: Viacom Inc. (VIAB:US)’s Paramount Pictures, Metro-Goldwyn Mayer Pictures and Lions Gate Entertainment Corp. (LGF:US)

Amazon said the Epix partnership expands the number of titles on the Prime service to more than 25,000. Last week, the company said it had more than 22,000.

Netflix, which has more than 27 million members, charges $7.99 a month for unlimited streaming video over the Internet.

To contact the reporters on this story: Edmund Lee in New York at elee310@bloomberg.net; Sarah Frier in New York at sfrier1@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Tom Giles at tgiles5@bloomberg.net; Nick Turner at nturner7@bloomberg.net


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Companies Mentioned

  • NFLX
    (Netflix Inc)
    • $431.09 USD
    • -20.86
    • -4.84%
  • VIAB
    (Viacom Inc)
    • $87.1 USD
    • -0.20
    • -0.23%
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