HBO signs up for Amazon Prime, Fire TV

In a deal that's sure to sting Netflix, Amazon licenses HBO programs for its Prime Instant Video service exclusively -- but no "Game of Thrones" -- and says HBO Go app will be on its Fire TV media-streaming box later this year.

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Joan E. Solsman
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HBO's "True Blood" HBO

Amazon unveiled a significant licensing agreement with HBO on Wednesday that brings popular programs from the premier cable channel to its Prime Instant Video service and puts the HBO Go app on its Fire TV media-streaming box.

Terms of the deal weren't disclosed, so it's unclear how much Amazon is coughing up for the privilege of being the first subscription streaming service to offer HBO.

The deal will smart at Netflix, Amazon's chief -- and much bigger -- rival in subscription streaming video, as the two companies have been in locked in an ongoing arms race to secure the most in-demand content. It's also sure to be a boon for the company's new Fire TV , a $99 device that connects to high-definition televisions and streams online video and music to the biggest screen in the house. HBO Go is arguably the most popular app to have on such devices after Netflix.

However, the deal excludes some of HBO's most popular series, like "Game of Thrones." Amazon declined to provide details beyond what it disclosed in its press release, which lists shows that will be available to Prime members.

Amazon shares were down less than 1 percent, or $1.37, to $327.97 in early trading.

JPMorgan analyst Doug Anmuth noted Amazon's deal with HBO significantly improves the selection and exclusivity of Prime Instant Video. "While the agreement includes HBO catalog content and a ~3-year delay on newer shows, we believe it could increase awareness of Amazon [Prime Instant Video] and make the service more competitive with Netflix over time," he said in a note.

Starting May 21, members of Amazon's $99-a-year Prime service will be able to stream shows like "The Sopranos," "Deadwood," "Family Tree," and early "Boardwalk Empire" and "True Blood." Seasons of current shows like "Girls" and "The Newsroom" will also become available later.

HBO Go, which requires a subscription to the cable channel to access (or a friend with a subscription), will become available on Fire TV by year-end if the companies meet their target.

Below is Amazon's listing of the programs included in the Prime Instant Video agreement when it becomes available next month:

  • All seasons of past shows such as "The Sopranos," "The Wire," "Deadwood," "Rome," and "Six Feet Under," and more recent series such as "Eastbound & Down," "Enlightened," and "Flight of the Conchords"
  • Miniseries, including "Angels in America," "Band of Brothers," "John Adams," "The Pacific," and "Parade's End"
  • Select seasons of current series such as "Boardwalk Empire," "Treme," and "True Blood"
  • Original movies like "Game Change," "Too Big To Fail," and "You Don't Know Jack"
  • Documentaries including the "Autopsy and Iceman" series, "Ghosts of Abu Ghraib," and "When the Levees Broke"
  • Original comedy specials from Lewis Black, Ellen DeGeneres, Louis CK, and Bill Maher

It will bring additional seasons of the current series named above, along with early seasons of other series like "Girls," "The Newsroom," and "Veep" to Prime members over the life of the deal.

Update, 7:06 a.m. PT: Adds further details and Amazon response.

Update, 11:43 a.m. PT: Adds analyst comment.