Amazon has announced that it’s bringing its Amazon Instant Video and Prime Instant Video services to the UK and Germany, its first markets outside of the US. This is a big move from the media and e-commerce giant, as it means the existing Amazon-owned LoveFilm brand will be changing too.

As things stand there are two strands to LoveFilm – the on-demand LoveFilm Instant service, and the DVD/Blu-ray rental service. While the LoveFilm branding will remain for the physical-format arm, LoveFilm Instant will now be merged into the soon-to-launch Prime Instant Video.

If you’re new to how the Prime Instant Video service works, here’s a quick recap.

Amazon, in its Prime

AIV 730x373 Amazon Instant Video and Prime Instant Video moves beyond the US and into the UK and Germany

Amazon Prime, Amazon’s subscription-based 2-day delivery service, bundles in the free Prime Instant Video services to US subscribers for free. It serves up a LoveFilm-esque on-demand service covering movies and TV shows, which can be streamed through apps on the Web, Kindle Fire, iOS, gaming consoles and more. Additionally, it also gives access to the Kindle Lending Library, letting users borrow one book per month for their Kindle, with no due date.

Thus far, Amazon Prime subscribers in the UK and Germany received a 1-day shipping service and access to the Kindle Lending Library. But now this will include unlimited streaming for movies and TV shows too.

Of course, this also means that Amazon Prime is being given a price hike, from £49/€29 in the UK/Germany, to £79/€49. If you’re already a LoveFilm Instant subscriber, you’ll currently be paying around £72/€84 a year, so this will represent a small rise in price – but you’ll be getting the broader Amazon Prime service too, which you’ll have to sign-up for to gain access to Prime Instant Video.

If you’re already an Amazon Prime subscriber, you’ll automatically gain access to Prime Instant Video, regardless of whether you want it or not. You won’t have to pay any more until your renewal date is up, at which point you’ll have to cough up and pay the higher rate. It doesn’t take a maths whizz to figure out that if you’re already an Amazon Prime AND LoveFilm subscriber, then this will save you a fair bit of money each year. If you’re not a dual-subscriber, well, it will cost you more.

If you sign-up to Amazon Prime during the countdown period which kicks off today, you’ll be able to lock things in at the current price for the next twelve months.

In addition to this, Amazon is also introducing its Amazon Instant Video service to the UK and Germany – which is a pay-as-you-go service for individual titles, similar to Tesco’s Blinkbox, meaning you can rent movies or download them to keep. Typically, this service serves up a much better range of movies and TV shows, including newer releases. It’s basically just like a Blockbuster video-rental store – but on-demand.

Amazon Instant Video too was only available in the US before now, and it’s worth noting here that this is a completely separate service to Prime Instant Video. It’s not tied into an Amazon Prime subscription.

Okay, so that’s the basics of this announcement explained – you’ll be wondering what exactly you’ll be getting, how will it work and what are the key dates? Read on.

The need-to-knows

Though you can sign-up for Amazon Prime now, the LoveFilm/Prime Instant Video switchover won’t take place until February 26. At this point, you’ll still be able to access more or less the same LoveFilm content, but the service will be hosted on Amazon’s platform instead. Also, you won’t have to download or update any new apps or anything, the new branding will be gradually rolled out to the existing apps and platforms shortly after.

Also, you may have noticed that LoveFilm has been inviting you to switch your log-in details over to an Amazon account for a while already – this will no longer be optional. You will have to set yourself up with an Amazon account and use that to log in with.

Content’s king: Original programming

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John Goodman: Alpha House

In addition to the content that’s already available through LoveFilm, Amazon tells us that it’s ramping up its investment in exclusive (streaming) content for Prime subscribers, and includes the likes of The Hangover Part II, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, The Walking Dead, and Vikings Season 2.

But it’s with original-programming that Amazon could really start to shine in the long term. As with Netflix, which has become as much of a producer as it is a streaming service, Amazon Studios has been working to bring its own content to market too.

Amazon Studios uses audience feedback to develop original entertainment and, since the division’s launch in November 2010, thousands of movie scripts and series pilots have been submitted. And we’ve started seeing the fruits of this labor in recent times.

Alpha House, a comedy starring John Goodman about four misfit US senators who rent a house together in Washington DC, aired in the US on Prime Instant Video on November 15, while Betas, a show about four friends who want to launch a new mobile social networking app in Silicon Valley, followed a week later on November 22. These will both be made available to Prime subscribers in the UK and Germany, as will a handful of original children’s series later in the year.

Longer term, this should really help Amazon to build a more compelling proposition in the UK and Germany, with more pilots being added to the mix to garner feedback.

What’s to come

The seed of LoveFilm dates back to 2002, but via a series of rebrands, mergers and acquisitions the company we now know as LoveFilm started to properly take shape in 2006, though it was still predominately a DVD-rental service then. A big development for the company came in 2008 when LoveFilm bought Amazon’s DVD rental business in the UK and Germany – in return, Amazon acquired a 32% stake in the company. Amazon then bought LoveFilm outright in 2011.

LoveFilm, along with Netflix which launched in the UK in early 2012, are battling it out not only with each other, but with the likes of BSkyB, Tesco’s Blinkbox and even catch-up services such as iPlayer. It’s a very competitive market, but with the full weight of Amazon behind it, from a branding and product perspective, LoveFilm will stand a much better chance of succeeding in the long haul. But there are still some holes in its arsenal.

For example, while LoveFilm Instant only launched a streaming app for iPhone-users a few months back, Android users are still waiting. This is the case for Prime Instant Video and Amazon Instant Video in the US too.

We caught up with Tim Leslie, Vice President of Amazon Instant Video for the UK and Germany, ahead of today’s announcement, and he confirmed that an Android incarnation is in the works and should be out some time in the not-too-distant future. But he was also quick to point out that LoveFilm and Prime Instant Video are on many other platforms.

“We’ve worked hard to offer the best selection of TV shows and movies for Prime Instant Video — in fact, we’ve more than tripled selection since LoveFilm became part of the Amazon family,” he said. “We also added high definition video and introduced apps for devices like Xbox One, PlayStation 4, Samsung and Sony TVs and iPads and iPhones.”

From February 26, Amazon will be pushing hard into your living rooms and portable entertainment devices. The battle for your streaming pounds and euros is about to get a lot more interesting.

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