The American Prospect: How Amazon Controls Virtually Everything You Watch

July 9, 2021 Media

When Amazon announced that it would buy mini-major movie studio MGM in an $8.45 billion deal, I surmised that the real goal here was to raise the cost of acquiring filmed entertainment for its competitors, making Amazon’s bundled Prime Video option look more attractive. I also nodded to the fact that Amazon is a competitor in streaming video and theatrical movie production, while also being a distribution network for streamers. Amazon also sells other streaming services through its website, and through Fire TV, an Amazon device that makes streaming video available. This simultaneous negotiation and competition can create leverage for Amazon in its dealings with rivals, and moves the company closer to taking a cut out of every economic transaction.

But there’s another side to this: No major streaming service actually delivers its product without the assistance of Amazon. That’s true of the major U.S. movie studios as well. And once you understand the totality of Amazon’s role in entertainment distribution, you begin to see its encroachment into entertainment content in a whole new light.

Amazon runs a digital film rental service as well through Prime. Just this week, Amazon inked a deal with Universal to become the exclusive rental option for live-action U.S. films, with Amazon-linked IMDb TV getting Universal’s animated titles. What role did AWS, which does the back end for Universal, play in that? “There’s a very clear conflict of interest vis-à-vis AWS and the rest of Amazon’s lines of business,” said Matt Stoller of the American Economic Liberties Project.