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Are Amazon And Apple About To Bury The Hatchet?

Amazon, Apple, Google and Roku have stepped up their competitive moves in recent months as consumers are increasingly using the companies’ devices to add streaming capabilities to their living room TVs. The recent round of news has centered on Amazon, which has interests in both the content side AND the hardware side of streaming video, and is showing signs of broadening both its availability and its content offerings.

A prominent software developer posted an email — purportedly from Amazon customer service — on his Twitter feed late last week that said Amazon was “developing a new app for the Apple TV” and hoped to have an Amazon Instant Video app on the Apple TV in the next few weeks. MacRumors noted in its story that Apple has been mistakenly criticized for blocking Amazon from Apple TV and quoted Apple’s recent comment to BuzzFeed that “all are welcome” —  including Amazon — on Apple TV.

In an unrelated story last week, Bloomberg reported that Amazon plans to open Prime Video up as a platform for other on demand networks:

Prime customers will have the option of adding other online subscriptions to their accounts, including major, well-known movie and TV channels, and Amazon will also sell prepackaged bundles of its own creation, said the people, who asked not to be identified or disclose the names of the partners because the plans are private. They said the new feature may go live as soon as next month.

Bloomberg did not report on what those “well-known movie and TV channels” may be. Variety, in its piece confirming the Bloomberg story, speculated that Amazon may be preparing to make networks like HBO and Showtime available as add-on services for Amazon Prime subscribers.

The more intriguing possibility is that Amazon may be setting up an inclusive and frictionless way access a lot of other networks. A growing list of streaming services like Sling TV (which has live networks feeds and ESPN), CBS All Access (which will include the new Star Trek series), Tribeca Shortlist (a curated movie service that just launched), and Seeso (a comedy network that launches in beta later this week) gives Amazon plenty of potential content partners.

If this sounds to you like Amazon is merely reassembling the much-derided cable package, bear in mind that much of the content available on the various streaming services is not available on cable and that cable includes a much broader list of channels that you may be getting much cheaper — in some cases only 10 cents a month — than what you would pay for Tribecca Shortlist ($6 a month) or Seeso ($4 a month).

Also, Amazon is apparently going to offer the various networks a la carte, which is what people have wanted from cable for years. Even if Amazon doesn’t offer a list of a la carte networks and only offers a cable-like package of channels, that wouldn’t restrict the options that consumers already have. Users who only want to subscribe to one or two networks would be able to subscribe outside of Amazon Prime.

HBO is already available as an add-on to Apple TV, and Showtime is already available as an add-on to Hulu. As more platforms offer more options in a land grab for market share, the options for consumers are likelier to get better than worse over the next few years.

For now and until we reach a saturation point where too many networks are chasing too few entertainment dollars, consumers can enjoy being in charge.

Scott Porch writes about the streaming-media industry for Decider. He is also a contributing writer for Biographile and The Daily Beast. You can follow him on Twitter @ScottPorch.

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