Access to rights and censorship are both issues for global streaming providers.
Amazon Prime Video on Wednesday announced the global expansion of its streaming video offerings, but like rival Netflix, which broadened its worldwide footprint at the beginning of this year, that globe doesn’t include China.
While Netflix has actively been seeking a share of China’s subscription streaming market, currently dominated entirely by domestic companies like LeTV and Youku-Tudou, Amazon Prime is largely bundled with other Amazon services, including expedited delivery, and also includes streaming music.
The move is in part designed to generate greater business and loyalty for Amazon, which operates the Amazon.cn site in China but is a bit player compared to online retail behemoths like Alibaba Group’s Taobao and rival JD.com, However, Amazon has signaled its intention to expand video offerings, with original programming including The Grand Tour, which debuted in November featuring former car show Top Gear hosts Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond, and James May. The show reportedly cost the online retailer US$250 million to produce for its first series.
However, according to Business Insider, that show alone was a deciding factor in 25 percent of Amazon’s Prime customers deciding to join or renew their Prime subscription (including this author).
Access to Amazon Prime Video content is available to subscribers from other nations who can login to their accounts using virtual private networks (VPNs), which are sometimes, but not always, able to get around filters and other blocks Chinese officials place on internet connections to foreign content. In Netflix’s case, the website is not blocked, but the streaming company actively detects and deters VPN use — salt in the wounds of China-based international users already cut off from their offerings.