appears to be readying a service that would make 5,000 movies and TV shows available to watch instantly, at no incremental charge, for members of the online retailer’s $79-per-year “Prime” free-shipping membership program.

The service would provide “unlimited, commercial-free, instant streaming” of 5,000 movies and TV shows’ with content similar to what is available through Netflix’s streaming component. Amazon’s service, though, would be limited to standard-definition video.

The notable observation here is that Amazon will try to create a business model that does not rely directly on incremental revenue, but rather on increasing subscribers to another existing service Amazon deems important. That’s similar to Apple selling music and video to sell iPods and iPads. Netflix, Comcast and others, on the other hand, have less wiggle room, since their video businesses are about selling video.

Comcast, of course, also is trying the Amazon tactic, tying a fixed-line cable subscription to its mobile and untethered online video service. Still, it always is dangerous when a new competitor proposes to give away what another company sells.

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