Amazon plans Hulu-like ad-supported video too?

Amazon may be planning an ad-supported video service, one that includes music videos and both original and licensed TV series as a counterpoint to its Instant Video download and subscription services, according to a report.

Joan E. Solsman Former Senior Reporter
Joan E. Solsman was CNET's senior media reporter, covering the intersection of entertainment and technology. She's reported from locations spanning from Disneyland to Serbian refugee camps, and she previously wrote for Dow Jones Newswires and The Wall Street Journal. She bikes to get almost everywhere and has been doored only once.
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Joan E. Solsman
2 min read

Amazon is planning to round out its video services with an new ad-supported model in the coming months, according to a report in the Wall Street Journal.

An Amazon spokeswoman told CNET that the company doesn't have plans for a free streaming service. "We have a video advertising business that currently offers programs like First Episode Free and ads associated with movie and game trailers, and we're often experimenting with new things, but we have no plans to offer a free streaming media service," Sally Fouts said.

The company already makes money like iTunes -- selling or renting digital video downloads -- through its Instant Video service. It also makes money like Netflix -- supplying subscribers to $99-a-year Amazon Prime with ad-free television and movies, though the video element to Prime is generally a consumer afterthought to its two-day shipping.

The new ad-supported service would create a Hulu-like product on Amazon's site, one that is free for viewers to watch with advertising.

The WSJ article, citing unnamed people familiar with the matter, said the service would stream television -- including originals and licensed content from others -- and music videos. The ad-supported service could be used as a tool to "upsell" customers to become members of Prime and as a way to learn more about shoppers' purchasing proclivities, turning it into an avenue to selling more stuff.

But the article suggested a blurring of lines between an ad-supported service and the current subscription-based Prime Instant Video. The show "Betas" -- one of Amazon's two inaugural original series for Prime -- is unlikely to be renewed for a second season on that service but may be produced for the ad-supported streaming project instead, according to the report.

The ad-supported model already has a predecessor in Amazon Studios latest "pilot" season, in which Amazon's Hollywood arm puts up one test episode of several series it is considering for full runs. During the latest "pilot season," the episodes -- available to be watched by all Amazon customers -- were preceded by an ad.

The latest report joins a number of rumors about Amazon's video ambitions. The company is widely expected to unveil a video-streaming device at an event next week in New York. Before that, Amazon was said to be exploring a short-form video service along the lines of YouTube. Earlier this year, a report indicated Amazon had discussed the possibility of licensing entire channels that could put it en route to a full-fledged Web TV service, but Amazon later said it didn't have any such plans, in a rare comment from a company that typically keeps all its cards close to the vest.

Update, 5:25 p.m. PT: Adds response from Amazon.