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Amazon Video Direct says 'action!' with YouTube rival

The online giant launches a platform open to any video creator, an in-your-face move to the likes of YouTube, Facebook and Vimeo.

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Watch out, YouTube. The biggest storefront on the Internet is coming for your eyeballs.

Amazon on Tuesday launched Amazon Video Direct, a new open platform that lets both professional studios and regular users publish their videos through the service. Video creators can make their videos available on Amazon's Prime Video streaming service, offer them as one-time rentals or purchases, or create subscription channels.

"Whether it's working directly with storytellers through Amazon Studios or enabling self-service capabilities for storytellers through AVD, we're constantly looking for ways to enable content creators to find an engaged audience and to make it easier for customers to discover great content," an Amazon spokeswoman said in a statement.

The new AVD program should help bolster Amazon Prime Video just a few weeks after the company made it available as a standalone service. Amazon executives have said they plan to ramp up spending on the streaming service this year, which should make it a stronger competitor to Netflix and Hulu. Amazon already has built up a sizable video portfolio, with licensed video deals, original shows and gamer content on Twitch.

AVD is also another sign of Amazon's growing rivalry with Alphabet, Google's parent company. The two tech titans compete for customers in cloud storage services, food delivery and consumer electronics. With AVD, Amazon looks to be opening a new battle line against Google's YouTube. Facebook and Vimeo, which have been working to grow their user-generated videos, may also face more pressure from Amazon. However, YouTube is already the Internet's biggest video site, so gaining a foothold against it will be an uphill battle for Amazon.

The platform, which is similar to Amazon's Kindle Direct Publishing service for e-books, is open to anyone and seems to be taking direct aim at so-called YouTube stars with the line "Become an Amazon Video Direct Star." The moniker doesn't quite roll off the tongue, but maybe the promise of a million-dollar monthly bonus will help lure the next PewDiePie. That bonus will be divvied up among the top 100 AVD titles in Prime Video.

"While difficult to quantify at this early stage, we do see this as a large opportunity," Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster said Tuesday.

Creators can earn royalties on titles based on hours streamed by Amazon Prime members, and share revenue from purchases, rentals or ads.

Initial partners include Conde Nast Entertainment, HowStuffWorks, Samuel Goldwyn Films, the Guardian, Mattel, Jash, Machinima, Baby Einstein, Kino Nation and Pro Guitar Lessons.

Amazon's site has a button for users to sign up, but the process isn't exactly as quick as posting something to YouTube. The required account information includes "set up payments for your sales" and "submit your tax information" sections.

Update, 9:43 a.m. PT: Added statement from Amazon.