Amazon.com Inc is preparing to take its video streaming service worldwide in a challenge to Netflix Inc, the world’s largest paid online TV network.
Amazon, which currently offers the service in only a handful of countries, announced the plans on Thursday in a blog post about The Grand Tour, a lavish new reality show featuring the former stars of BBC’s popular Top Gear.
“In December, the show will premiere in 200 countries and territories around the world, exclusively on Amazon,” the company wrote on its Web site.
Chief executive officer Jeff Bezos also mentioned the plans on Twitter.
Amazon has spent billions of US dollars licensing programming and producing original shows and movies as part of its Prime service. Customers who pay US$99 a year for free shipping and other benefits get access to a library of new and older content at no added cost.
The expansion of the Seattle-based company’s video service is one of the biggest challenges yet to Netflix, which operates in more than 190 countries after completing its international rollout in January. It is available everywhere except Syria, North Korea, China and Crimea, the company said at the time.
To offer video service around the world, Amazon has to obtain global rights and satisfy local regulators. The company began seeking worldwide rights to shows this year, a sign of its plans to expand, according to people familiar with the matter.
It makes sense for Amazon to push its original programming in other markets, but securing the rights to distribute its entire catalog of movies and shows worldwide would be expensive, Wedbush Securities Inc analyst Michael Pachterm said.
“They’re not paying FX to run Justified in Scandinavia or Gabon,” Pachter said. “The stuff they own, sure, why not.”
Streaming video services are popular in developed countries, especially in the West. Foreign markets where fewer people have access to fixed broadband Internet pose more of a challenge.
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