Bloomberg Business reports that Amazon has emailed its marketplace sellers to announce that it will no longer accept new listings for Apple TV and Chromecast products, and as of October 29, it will remove existing listings. Amazon explains that the devices don’t work with Prime Video, and it doesn’t want to sell devices that don’t work well with Prime Video.
“Over the last three years, Prime Video has become an important part of Prime,” Amazon said. “It’s important that the streaming media players we sell interact well with Prime Video in order to avoid customer confusion.”
Of course, there’s no reason they couldn’t be made to work with Prime Video, if Amazon wanted them to. The Roku, the Xbox, and the PlayStation all support Prime Video service (and they will all still continue to be sold via Amazon). On the other hand, Amazon sells it’s own equivalent to the Chromecast, its Fire TV stick, so it’s pretty clear that supporting additional devices for its service is not a priority. (It was only about a year ago that it even deigned to support plain-vanilla Android, albeit via an app only available in its own appstore.) And supporting them from two of its biggest competitors (including the one who masterminded the conspiracy to impose agency pricing on them) seems like a pretty clear no-go.
Bloomberg quotes analysts who are disappointed with Amazon’s decision, including noting that only 20% of Amazon customers subscribe to Prime to begin with, and what about those who don’t but want a device they can use with some other service such as Netflix? For myself, I’m a bit surprised Amazon would open itself up to another potential anti-trust investigation so soon after Authors United requested the Justice Department look into the e-book side of things. Whereas Authors United’s case seemed kind of flimsy, it seems like this kind of shenanigan would be a bit more clear-cut.
It also presents regulators with a very tempting solution should they decide there are anti-trust issues with Amazon’s digital content—just cut Amazon right down the dotted line and break them up into separate physical-good sales and digital-good sales companies, the very same way Barnes & Noble may be considering spinning off its Nook division just to drop the digital millstone from its’ physical-goods stores’ neck. Problem solved.
But it’s probably premature to speculate about that, because it still remains to be seen what, if any, consequences Amazon will face from this. It’s always possible they could reverse their decision if they come under enough pressure.
Some would wonder if Amazon will make the same kind of decision with regard to competing e-readers, but I doubt that’s likely because the cases really aren’t parallel. Competing e-readers really aren’t any threat to the Kindle’s dominance; indeed, there simply aren’t that many competing e-readers anymore. But Amazon doesn’t rule the roost in the same way when it comes to streaming video services, so it has to look after its own.