Is the launch of Amazon’s Video Direct service one app too many?

Stuart Fuller

“If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em” is a tried-and-tested reason for any firm to play catch-up with its rivals. But does it still hold true in the highly competitive digital world today? A firm would be crazy if it invested heavily in a business model to try and replicate the functionality, coverage and, ultimately, success of Facebook, or to try and build a search engine that could index web content faster and more comprehensively than Google. We know that technology fuels change these days, but there also has to be a compelling reason why a company could think it can break the dominance of an existing, established brand.

Try telling that to Amazon, which has this week launched its own video-sharing platform that it will hope will rival YouTube. That is a big ask. Launched in 2005, YouTube can now boast over a billion global users, uploading over 400 hours of video to the site every minute. Whilst we all love watching Charlie Bit my Finger (watched nearly one billion times since it was uploaded back in 2007) or saying Hello to Adele (over 100 million views in five days), it’s now an important commercial medium for hundreds of businesses, giving rise to the term ‘vloggers’ – some of whom are millionaires in their own right and as big as movie stars. It’s also the second most visited website in the world, with only parent Google (.com) being more widely used.

On the whole, you’d have to say that YouTube has a strong market position, but other video-sharing sites such as Vimeo continue to grow, and short-form video sharing is now part of the functionality on Instagram and Twitter. So now it’s the turn of Amazon to try and take its share of the cake with the launch of its new Video Direct service.

Not content with being one of the biggest online retailers in the world, selling everything from A to Z, having a rival music streaming site (Amazon Play) to Spotify and Apple Music, or owning one of the digital world’s biggest TV and movie streaming sites (Amazon Instant), Amazon now wants to try and break the YouTube monopoly. On the face of it, it doesn’t appear to be offering anything compelling to make content creators switch their allegiance, but what it does have is access to additional services, including its own shopping cart services, hosting infrastructure (under the AWS brand) or even distribution to millions of subscribers through the Amazon Instant platform.

It’s a bold move, but one that we’ve come to expect from Amazon, which seems ever keen to conquer new markets.

Unfortunately, despite being heavily invested in the new gTLD program as a registrar and a registrant, Amazon has not so far used a new gTLD for the website, preferring a traditional dotCom domain name. The URL www.amazon.video is live, but forwards to its prime movie website, whilst www.amazondirect.video is covered by a DPML. Perhaps the domain name video.direct may be of interest – it shouldn’t be too hard to find the registrant as he not only lists his address in Lebanon, but he also gives directions: Registrant Street: 1st Turn Left After Main Gate Block B 1st Floor.