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Amazon toy sale rubs Nickelodeon in Netflix's face

Amazon puts Nickelodeon toys on sale in special shops, wrapping up the video and ecommerce aspects of Amazon Prime in a neat bow.

Screenshot by Joan E. Solsman/CNET

Is your son or daughter dying to find a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Inflatable Sports Car under the tree? Amazon now can sell it to you for nearly half off. And, by the way, did you notice that paying the annual $79 fee for a Prime membership will get you the blow-up car in two days and the ability to stream Nickelodeon shows whenever you want?

Tuesday, Viacom network Nickelodeon and launched three Nick-themed shops dedicated to Dora the Explorer, SpongeBob SquarePants, and the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles -- all of which offer more than 100 discounted products in total. Savings go as high as half off, and the holiday sale includes products with traditionally big price tags -- up to $380.

As part of the sale, shoppers will be able to download one episode of each of the series for free through Saturday.

It's the clearest link Amazon has ever made between the e-commerce and instant video elements of its Prime service, a $79-a-year subscription that offers two-day shipping on eligible products and access to Prime Instant Video, its Netflix competitor.

Earlier this year, Amazon snapped up Nickelodeon's library of shows in a licensing deal with Viacom after Netflix passed on renewing its deal with the television company. Netflix at the time was focusing its licensing efforts on more-targeted deals that would have it paying only for the content it really wanted, rather than far-reaching deals like that of Viacom, which also runs networks such as MTV and Comedy Central.

Those bundled license deals are why Netflix had no-name shows alongside popular shows in its streaming library.

Unlike Netflix, though, Amazon doesn't sell only video -- it sells everything, including SpongeBob's Greatest Hits CDs and Bubble Guppies Bath Squirters. It was quick to scoop up the breadth of Viacom's content. Popular kids programming and live TV (such as sporting events) are also the most persuasive reasons people sign up for and keep a video service.

Read: The unlikely group putting the kibosh on cable TV: Parents

The holiday Nickelodeon shops aren't explicit ads for Prime. But many of the items offered are eligible for Prime's two-day shipping. Moreover, the free, downloadable episodes will drive home to parents that the Nickelodeon characters that their kids love enough to put on their Christmas lists are available online at Amazon rather than Netflix.