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Amazon adds Viacom shows, expands streaming selection

Netflix says HBO is the company's No. 1 competitor, but not everyone agrees. One analyst says Amazon looks more and more like a major threat.

The hit show 'Jersey Shore' is coming to Amazon Prime video service along with lots of other shows from Viacom.

Look out Netflix. While you're worried about HBO, Amazon's building up its streaming library.

Amazon announced today it has signed a licensing agreement with Viacom that will bring the entertainment conglomerate's shows to Amazon's Prime video service. Over the next several months, Amazon will receive access to episodes from Viacom's Comedy Central, MTV, Nickelodeon and BET outlets, the company said in a statement.

"This deal will bring the total number of Prime Instant Videos to more than 15,000," Amazon wrote.

This hits Netflix where it hurts. Amazon continues to build up the number of titles available for streaming as Netflix's subscribers continue to complain about the lack of selection in the company's streaming library.

To be fair, that complaint really only applies to Netflix's film category. Netflix's stock of TV shows is formidable and getting bigger. And overall, Netflix still has a much larger streaming library. Here's another little tidbit, the shows Amazon obtained from Viacom are fewer than what Netflix acquired.

That said Amazon appears to be closing the gap with Netflix and adding titles at a much faster rate at this point in the service's development than Netflix did at an equivalent period, according to Dan Rayburn, a principal analyst at research firm Frost & Sullivan.

Amazon, the Web's largest store, has already obtained shows from Fox, Disney, Warner Bros., and CBS (the parent company of CNET).

Wait, didn't Netflix say last month that it doesn't consider Amazon a serious threat?

"Both Amazon and Hulu Plus's content is a fraction of our content," Netflix CEO Reed Hastings wrote in a letter to investors in January. "We believe their respective total viewing hours are each less than 10 percent of ours."

Besides dismissing Amazon's ability to challenge Netflix, Hastings also said that HBO, with its HBO Go Internet service, is the force to be feared in online distribution.

Rayburn, who has covered streaming media for over a decade, told me he believes this is a feint by Netflix. He says that Amazon has a huge audience to which it can market its video-streaming service and is more likely to pressure Netflix.

To obtain access to Amazon's video, one has to pay $79 a year to become a Prime member. That's not only cheaper than Netflix on a per-month basis ($6.58 a month versus $7.99 for Netflix), but Prime members also receive free two-day shipping on most Amazon purchases.

The rumors circulating lately are that Amazon plans to launch a separate subscription video-rental business similar to Netflix. If that happens, Hastings may change his tune about the competitive threats.