How Amazon Video Subscribers Stack Up Against Netflix, Hulu (Report)

Amazon is notorious for revealing as little information as possible about its hugely popular Prime subscriber, the $99 annual membership that gives people access to free two-day shipping and a library of streaming video and music. But a new report from Reuters has shed some light on how the e-commerce giant's video business stacks up against competitors Netflix and Hulu

The U.S. audience for Amazon's video programming, including its library of licensed shows and originals like Transparent, totaled about 26 million customers in early 2017, according to a Reuters review of internal company documents.

Amazon Prime is a broad subscription that offers many perks to its members, while Hulu and Netflix offer only video streaming. All told, Amazon has an estimated 90 million Prime subscribers. The company has started offering a video-specific monthly subscription, though the company has not disclosed how popular the offering is.

Based on the number of people Reuters reports were watching Amazon originals in early 2017, the company would fall second behind Netflix in terms of total audience. At the end of March 2017, Netflix had nearly 48 million paid members in the U.S. That's nearly double Amazon's audience of 26 million. Meanwhile, Hulu ended 2017 with a total of 17 million U.S. subscribers to both its on-demand and live TV offerings. 

The Amazon documents also reveal that originals helped draw more than 5 million members to Prime between late 2014 and early 2017. 

Amazon began investing in original programming in 2013. The company had a 2017 content budget of around $4.5 billion, compared with Netflix's $6 billion spend. That investment has paid off in the form of critical darlings Transparent and The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, as well as broader fare like Bosch.

In a 2015 interview with The Hollywood Reporter, CEO Jeff Bezos summed up the strategy of adding video the Prime subscription by saying, "When people join Prime, they buy more of everything we sell. They buy more shoes, they buy power tools and so on. How you pay for great content is an important part of making great content available." 

An Amazon spokesman declined to comment on the Reuters report.