April 23, 2014, 5:01 PM

Amazon sweetens Prime membership with HBO content

Amazon Prime users will be able to watch original shows from HBO’s archive as part of their membership. This is the first time HBO has made its content available for streaming outside its own HBO GO app.

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Amazon Fire TV, soon with HBO GO

Amazon.com Inc. and Home Box Office Inc. announced today that select HBO programming will soon be available exclusively on Amazon Prime Instant Video. The content will be included with Prime membership and premiere on May 21.

HBO has never before licensed its content to an online-only subscription streaming service, and Amazon and HBO say the deal between the two is exclusive, which means HBO content won’t be available on Netflix Inc.’s streaming service anytime soon. Netflix is No. 7 in Internet Retailer’s Top 500 Guide and has 35.7 million customers for its streaming service.

Access to Amazon Prime Instant Video content is part of the Amazon Prime offering, the e-retailer’s $99-a-year program that nets Amazon shoppers two-day free shipping on their orders, access to free e-books and other benefits. Amazon does not publicly disclose how many Prime members it has, but analysts at Macquarie Equities Research said in January more than 20 million households were Prime members.

Content available on Amazon Prime Instant Video will include complete series of older HBO programs including “The Sopranos” and “The Wire,” miniseries like “Band of Brothers” and “Angels in America,” and select, early seasons of series still on the air like “Boardwalk Empire” and “True Blood.” HBO says programming will be available on Amazon Prime Instant Video about three years after it airs on HBO. The companies did not disclose the financial terms of their deal.

The duo also announced today that HBO GO, an app that streams HBO shows and movies to HBO paid subscribers , will be available on Amazon Fire TV, a streaming device that connects to high-definition TVs. Amazon began selling Fire TV earlier this month for $99. Fire TV users will have to pay HBO to access the content. Until now, the HBO GO users had to validate their subscription status with the app through their cable provider to access HBO GO.

Video streaming has become a larger portion of Amazon’s business recently. Amazon Prime members watched almost three times as many Amazon Instant Videos in 2013 than 2012, the company says. Amazon’s video traffic increased 94% from March 2013 to March 2014, and increased 300% in some regions. Amazon is now third when it comes to providing streaming videos, falling behind Netflix Inc. and Google Inc.’s YouTube, according to data from streaming technology provider Qwilt.

Amazon is set to report its earnings for the first quarter tomorrow.

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