Amazon strikes back at Netflix with BBC streaming deal

The online retail giant's Lovefilm, which operates solely in Europe, will feature BBC programming as well shows from iTV. Netflix has plans to launch a streaming service in Europe, but hasn't said when.

Amazon's Lovefilm has inked two important deals as it prepares to wage a streaming-video war with Netflix in the U.K.

BBC Worldwide will bring its programming, including "Doctor Who" and "Life On Mars," to Lovefilm's streaming service. In addition, Lovefilm, which operates solely in Europe, announced today that it has signed a deal with the U.K.'s largest commercial broadcaster, iTV, to stream its shows, including "Marchlands" and "Above Suspicion" among many others.

Lovefilm's BBC deal is especially important. Just last month, Netflix announced that it signed a deal with the BBC that would bring the network's content to its streaming service when it launches in the U.K. and Ireland later this year. That news came just weeks after Netflix announced a European streaming deal with Miramax and Lionsgate.

Amazon acquired Lovefilm last year to bolster its online streaming efforts. At that time, the company didn't need to worry about competing against Netflix. But in the coming weeks or months--Netflix isn't saying exactly when its European streaming service will launch--Lovefilm will face its first major challenger.

And what a challenger it is. Netflix announced earlier this week that during the fourth quarter of 2011, its users across 45 countries streamed 2 billion hours of movies and television shows. That news came just a couple months after Sandvine reported that Netflix accounts for nearly one third of peak downstream traffic in the U.S., making it a bigger bandwidth user than basic HTTP (Web) traffic.

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