Amazon and Google can’t avoid each other any more than we can avoid them. Even if you don’t regularly search on Google or you haven’t bought anything on Amazon, there’s a good chance you’ve given money to one of their many subsidiaries. When two big brands like Amazon and Google occupy the same space, it’s inevitable that they’ll bump heads.
One of the areas where the two online giants are hitting the hardest is web video. Amazon’s latest attack struck this month, with the launch of Amazon Video Direct. To help us understand the trajectory of Amazon’s strategy, let’s take a quick look into the past.
A Brief History of Online Video
Youtube was founded by former Paypal employees in December 2005. It grew so rapidly that it took less than a year for Google to buy the company for $1.6 billion. Just like that, Google became the leading brand in online video.
Amazon debuted its own video service, Amazon Unbox, in September 2006. More in response to Netflix than YouTube, Unbox was rebranded to Amazon Instant Video in 2011. Amazon started pushing professionally produced video content while YouTube continued to make way for amateurs.
The game live-streaming service Twitch.tv launched in June 2011. After YouTube made live-streaming available to all of its users in 2013, Amazon acquired Twitch for $1 billion in 2014. YouTube responded by launching YouTube Gaming in 2015.
While Amazon Instant Video is a great service in its own right, Amazon is now probably hoping to raise its viewer count beyond the measly millions, closer to YouTube’s over 1 billion viewers.
Enter Amazon Video Direct
On May 10, 2016, Amazon launched Amazon Video Direct. Amazon Video Direct expands Amazon Instant Video to include video content uploaded by smaller producers like online news outlets and YouTube content creators.
Amazon Video Direct content will be displayed right alongside shows and movies created by much larger production companies. It’s an enticing opportunity that Amazon is hoping will attract professional video creators who are looking to take their careers to the next level.
This move may remind some observers of Amazon’s highly controversial Kindle Direct Publishing, which gave authors the option of publishing their own books through Amazon. However, it’s worth noting that YouTube has seen a lot of criticism from its users lately. Many content creators have said that they’re hoping a better option will arise. Could Amazon Video Direct be the competitor so many YouTubers have been waiting for?
Amazon Video Direct Better vs YouTube
Only time will tell whether Amazon Video Direct is a worthy competitor or, dare I say, successor to YouTube. However, evidence seems to suggest that Amazon isn’t trying to replace YouTube. Not yet, anyway.
The Vice President of Amazon Video, Jim Freeman, described Amazon Video Direct as the first “self-service option for video providers to get their content into a premium streaming subscription service”. Amazon seems to be focusing on premium, professional content. While the only requirements are that videos must be high definition and have closed-captioning, it’s clear that Amazon Video Direct isn’t a place for vlogs or viral videos, two cornerstones of YouTube.
Amazon is hoping to attract video creators who want to gain exposure and make money. Their main pitch to creators is that they will have access to Amazon’s millions of shoppers and that they will have several options for monetizing their content. There are other minor perks like performance metrics and support through Amazon’s devices, but Amazon knows what it’s real selling points are.
Amazon has also announced that, every month, it will distribute $1 million to Amazon Video Direct creators whose content is among the 100 most popular programs on Amazon Instant Video. Considering that one of the major gripes with YouTube is that it can be an unstable source of income, the promise of money seems like a smart selling point from Amazon.
It will be interesting to see how the online video battle between Amazon and Google develops over the rest of the year. Whether or not Amazon Video Direct emerges as a direct competitor to YouTube, it’s always healthy when a company is forced to defend its monopoly. Amazon Video Direct will either be better than YouTube, or it will make YouTube better.