January 20, 2006, 12:00 AM

Amazon to stream weekly video show on books, movies, music

Amazon is seeking to drive up interest in books, movies and music sales with a streaming video program hosted by comedian Bill Maher and featuring live musical performances and interviews beginning this summer.

Amazon is seeking to drive up interest in books, movies and music sales with a streaming video program hosted by comedian Bill Maher and featuring live musical performances and interviews with authors and entertainers beginning this summer.

The series of 30-minute programs, “Amazon Fishbowl with Bill Maher,” will be sponsored by UPS and run each Thursday evening for 12 weeks starting June 1. It will also feature a surprise UPS delivery to a randomly selected Amazon customer.

The program’s goal, Amazon said, is to “help our customers discover new books, films and music, and to help the creators of these works find new audiences.”

Amazon is No. 1 in the Internet Retailer Top 400 Guide to Retail Web Sites.

Analysts were cautious about how significant Amazon’s video program will be on the retailer’s traffic and sales. Being first to market among online retailers could be risky if the program isn’t popular among Amazon customers, says Todd Shanko, an analyst with JupiterResearch.

Still, Shanko says the program has the potential to generate increased sales as well as traffic at Amazon and could mark the beginning of a new common feature of retail web sites. “This might end up generating a new approach to online retailing in books, movies, CDs as well as other types of products,” he says, adding that any type of product could be supported online by live video programs that feature celebrity users or explain how the products work.

Amazon will preview the Fishbowl program at the Sundance Film Festival on Jan. 21 and 22, then run previews of it on Amazon.com beginning Jan. 24.

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