Netflix Isn't the Only Original Gangster

In a move to make its service stickier, Netflix (Nasdaq: NFLX  ) has been investing in original content.

Lillyhammer earlier this year was just the beginning. House of Cards, Hemlock Grove, and the Arrested Development revival are coming up next year. There's also going to be a second season of Lillyhammer.

Well, more than one video service can play at that game.

Variety is reporting that Amazon.com (Nasdaq: AMZN  ) is close to approving a musical comedy series that would be its first foray into original series programming.

Browsers -- a show that was originally developed for CBS (NYSE: CBS  ) last year but never got past the scripting stage -- is described by Variety as a "single-camera project" about "four interns working at a Huffington Post-esque website, with musical elements woven into the narrative."

It sounds hokey, but stranger shows have panned out. Glee? Big Bang Theory? More important, it gives Amazon.com some original programming to stand out in the same way that Netflix and Hulu have been gradually arming themselves with proprietary content.

Amazon Studios has been working on low-budget films since 2010, and earlier this year began soliciting ideas for original shows that would stream through Amazon's catalog of videos that it makes available to Amazon Prime subscribers at no additional cost. It wouldn't be a surprise to see Amazon sell streams of the original content as well. Offer up the first episode as a freebie to everybody? Sure. That makes sense.

In a seemingly orchestrated manner, video services are becoming premium movie channels. Netflix has made no bones about calling Time Warner's (NYSE: TWX  ) HBO a major competitor, even though HBO costs twice as much and requires a cable or satellite television subscription.

It wouldn't be such a bad place to be for Netflix and Amazon. For starters, instead of a competition, TV buffs would just subscribe to both if each one offered compelling content that the other lacked.

For now, we're still waiting for the first breakthrough hit for the video sites. It could happen next year for any of the Netflix shows. The ceiling will grow a few feet the moment that happens.

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