Amazon Bundles Showtime, Starz Subscriptions With Prime Membership

Amazon Fire HD 8 - H 2015
Courtesy of Amazon

Amazon Fire HD 8 - H 2015

This marks the first time that Starz is making programs like 'Outlander' available via a stand-alone streaming subscription.

How about a little Homeland with that Amazon Prime membership?

Amazon now is bundling subscriptions to streaming services like Showtime with its existing $99-a-year Prime offering. The Streaming Partners Program, which launched Tuesday, gives Prime members the option to pay extra for access to 30 different over-the-top streaming offerings.

"As the streaming ecosystem is evolving, our view is that there's a lack of convenience for consumers," Amazon vp digital video Michael Paull tells The Hollywood Reporter. "We think it's too complicated having all these disparate apps with different user experiences and content selection, so we wanted to create something that will be seamless and simple for those who want to have an over-the-top streaming experience."

Prime customers who choose to bundle these services with their existing memberships will be able to watch all of the content directly through the Amazon Video apps for connected TVs, streaming devices, mobile devices and desktops. That means customers can transition from watching the new season of Amazon original series Transparent to an episode of Showtime's Homeland without switching between apps. Amazon plans to handle payment for all of the subscriptions but says that customers also will be able to directly log into the other subscription services after signing up via Amazon. Paull declined to comment on how Amazon plans to split revenue with its new streaming partners.

In some cases, Amazon is offering discounts on subscriptions to its members. Showtime, for example, will cost $8.99 a month, compared to the $11 a month that the streaming service typically costs. "By marrying Showtime with the powerhouse retail capabilities of Amazon, we continue to greatly expand our footprint, making sure our service is available to new subscribers whenever and however they want to watch us," said Showtime president David Nevins.

This will be the first time that Starz is making its programming available over the top, though by partnering with Amazon, the cable company behind Outlander isn't going directly to consumers just yet. CEO Chris Albrecht foreshadowed a move into streaming during the company's third-quarter earnings call when he noted that "it has become clear to us the importance of Starz unlocking opportunities to distribute our content beyond the traditional cable bundle, tapping into the unmet demand we are seeing for our content while, at the same time, still cultivating our core business MVPDs."

Other subscriptions offered through the new program include Comedy Central Stand-Up Plus, which will stream the Viacom-owned network's stand-up specials, as well as television episodes from comedians like Amy Schumer, for $3.99 a month; British television service Acorn TV; Lifetime Movie Club; and DramaFever Instant. Notably absent from the program are HBO Now and CBS All Access, but Paull notes that Amazon expects to add new subscriptions every month.

Amazon already distributes content via its Fire TV connected device, but the launch of the Streaming Partners Program takes it one step further. Streaming observers have forecast that bundling will become commonplace as the streaming landscape proliferates, but efforts to combine services have been limited thus far. Hulu began offering Showtime as an add-on to its subscriptions in July, also offering the service at a discount of $8.99 a month.

It's all part of the ongoing battle between Netflix, Amazon and Hulu as they jostle for market share among consumers. In addition to bolstering their original slates, all three players have been competitive when it comes to licensing existing TV content, pushing up the value of past seasons of popular shows like Empire and The Walking Dead.