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Amazon tips hat to Prime Instant Video for millions of members

During the latest quarter, Amazon added "millions" of subscribers to Prime, and an exec says its Netflix-like streaming video service is helping those numbers.

James Martin/CNET

Amazon's Prime service garnered "millions" of new members in the latest quarter, and a top executive at the company said Prime Instant Video helped usher them in.

"We think it's certainly helping the Prime numbers, the Prime membership increases that you're seeing," Chief Financial Officer Thomas J. Szkutak, referring to Prime Instant Video, said Thursday during a conference call to discuss third-quarter earnings.

Amazon typically keeps its disclosures about its various services close to the vest, and it hasn't previously tipped its hand on how many subscribers Prime was attracting quarter to quarter. "Very strong growth" was how Szkutak previously described the pace of Prime additions on Amazon's second-quarter call.

Now we have a little better idea what tight-lipped Amazon means by very strong growth.

External estimates from earlier in the year put Prime membership above 10 million members a year and a half after they had been speculated to be between 3 million and 5 million.

That indicates Prime, which gives paying subscribers two-day shipping plus access to premium streaming video and some Kindle e-book borrowing, is gaining momentum as its video library gets deeper and the number of items that qualify for free, expedited shipping grows.

Amazon's development of original series and licensing of hit shows like "Downtown Abbey" are meant to drive people to its Prime paid-subscription service, as well as sell Kindle devices. Szkutak said today that Amazon is including its investing plans around video content -- both licensing and original -- in its outlook for the current quarter.