Stream long, and prosper.
Star Trek fans now have a new reason to pay Amazon.com (Nasdaq: AMZN ) $79 a year for free two-day shipping through its Amazon Prime membership plan.
All episodes of the original Star Trek series -- along with 17 other television shows owned by CBS (NYSE: CBS ) , including Cheers, Frasier, and Medium -- have been added to the online retailer's digital vault of videos that Prime subscribers can stream at no additional cost.
Now that Netflix (Nasdaq: NFLX ) has stopped offering streaming at no additional cost to DVD plan subscribers, Amazon is stepping up to fill the void. (In fairness, Netflix subscribers won't entirely miss out, since many of the programs included in Amazon's deal are also available via Netflix streams.)
Amazon didn't seem to rock the world when it began to offer 5,000 videos as cost-free bonuses to Prime members in February. The options were up to 6,000 last week, but the CBS deal pushes the options up to an impressive 8,000 titles.
Even if you were never a fan of Numb3rs or The Tudors, it's hard to turn down what's essentially a freebie to Amazon's millions of Prime subscribers.
The challenge at this point is to make the content available outside of the PC. Netflix has spent the past four years building up its arsenal of ways to put its licensed streams into home theaters, working with Blu-ray players, DVR makers, set-top boxes, and video game consoles.
Amazon has some serious ground to make up there.
Amazon streams its premium videos through TiVo (Nasdaq: TIVO ) , but Prime instant videos aren't available that way yet. Netflix streams through all three video game consoles, which is three more consoles than Amazon can use to reach viewers.
However, there's a legitimate opportunity for Amazon to replace Netflix, at least for frequent online shoppers who are hesitant about shelling out $7.99 a month -- or more than Prime's $79 a year -- to Netflix for its larger streaming catalog.
It doesn't have to end there. Amazon will never build out a regional network of DVD distribution centers, but it can offer most of Hollywood's new releases and fresh television episodes a la carte through its premium streams. All it needs is to get a larger audience to go through the hassle of tethering their compatible devices with Amazon's streaming service. Teaming up with Coinstar's (Nasdaq: CSTR ) Redbox is another solution. That option has been rumored since last year, long before Amazon even began to take on Netflix with its unlimited streaming product.
Amazon is suddenly in a better position than anyone else to exploit Netflix's new vulnerability. Even Star Trek's cool-headed Spock can't argue with that logic.
Will Amazon be able to take market share from Netflix? Share your thoughts in the comment box below.