Amazon expands streaming video offering

When it comes to online video streaming, Amazon is still trying to remind everyone that it’s in the race too.

And today, the online retailer made perhaps its biggest move in that direction to date. Amazon has signed a new partnership deal with Viacom to offer free streaming of MTV, Comedy Central, Nickelodeon, and many other TV networks’ shows, for customers who have a full Amazon Prime membership.

Amazon Prime is a $79/year service that started out offering customers unlimited free two-day shipping on most Amazon-inventoried items. It recently expanded the service so that, at no additional cost, users also receive free streaming video in the same vein as Netflix, as well as access to free Kindle content.

With the Viacom deal, Amazon Prime Instant Video now has more than 15,000 movies and TV shows and creates a much more formidable contender to Netflix.

Of course, the problem with Amazon Prime is it has a large up-front cost. $79 to join Amazon Prime is a lot different than less than $10 to join Netflix. Of course, if you do the math, Prime ends up being cheaper at less than $7/month. And don’t forget, that includes all the other benefits of Amazon Prime too.

The cheaper versions of Amazon Prime, like the $39/year version for students, do not include streaming video access. Nevertheless, this announcement is a big shout from Amazon that it wants to seriously play in the contentious streaming video market. We’ll see what happens.