Amazon is to increase the price of its Amazon Prime service in the UK from £49 to £79 from 26 February.
The price hike coincides with the rebranding of Amazon's film and TV show streaming service Lovefilm, which will now be dubbed Amazon Prime Instant Video and be automatically included in the service.
Current Amazon Prime customers will benefit in the short term as they will automatically get the new streaming service for no extra charge initially. However, when it comes to renewal, the price will automatically rise to £79 whether you want the video streaming option or not.
The move is likely to startle current Prime customers when their term of service finishes.
"If you sign up between now and the 26th, it's £49 (and you get access to 15k movies and TV shows within that)," explained a spokesman for the company. "If you sign up post 26th, then it is £79 - which for unlimited one-day deliver and unlimited streaming of over 15k movies and TV episodes is a great deal."
In an interview with Pocket-lint ahead of the announcement, Tim Leslie, vice-president of Amazon Instant Video for the UK and Germany, confirmed that the move would affect "millions", telling us that Amazon has "millions of Amazon Prime customers in the UK".
"Many customers are currently both Prime (£49 a year) and Lovefilm Instant (£72 a year) members, so combining the two is providing them great value and saves members over £40 a year," said Amazon.
Price hike aside, it does represent good value for customers who want the best of both services. Those who currently use both Amazon Prime and Amazon Prime Instant (nee Lovefilm Instant) from the end of February will be saving around 35 per cent.
And when compared to nearest rival Netflix, which charges £5.99 a month for access to its TV shows and movies, the entire Amazon Prime bundle also seems like good value. A year of Netflix at its standard subscription costs a customer £71.88 a year. With the new Amazon Prime at £80, customers also get access to 500,000 books for their Kindles, and free postage and next day delivery on hundreds of thousands of Amazon products - including Sunday deliveries in several areas of the country.
Customers not keen on paying £79 upfront for the whole year will still be able to sign up to the new Amazon Prime Instant Video service without contract on a monthly basis.
In essence, the new Instant Video service is a rebranding exercise for Lovefilm in the UK, and something that will mean the new brand and Amazon are aligned better with the US, which never offered the Lovefilm service.
"This is the natural evolution of where it will be going. When we bought Lovefilm we slowly started using the Amazon brand and now it's time to switch it over," explained Leslie.
Lovefilm Instant customers will notice little difference aside from a change of logo on the app page on their device. "The branding will change, but the experience is the same," he added.
There are new features, though. For the first time Amazon Prime and Amazon Prime Instant Video customers will also be able to rent or purchase movies and TV shows to download to their devices be it their smart TV, tablet or smartphone. The move means that Amazon will be able to enjoy the best of both worlds; streaming and downloading, capitalising on its strength of selling stuff.
It should also mean that huge voids in the catalogue will be effectively filled, although at an extra cost to the customer if they want it.
With Netflix, Sky and other streaming services continually upping the game when it comes to content, Amazon is also following suit with exclusive shows and movies to entice you in.
The company says it is increasing its investment in exclusive content and original programming, including snapping up exclusive movies and TV shows beyond making its own shows like Vikings or Alpha House: a political comedy with John Goodman about a group of senators in Washington DC sharing a house together. Amazon has also recently nabbed exclusives on Downton Abbey and Peppa Pig.
Perhaps surprisingly, the Lovefilm name will survive. The Lovefilm by post service will continue unchanged. It will be available as a standalone service or as part of a bundled package with the new Amazon Prime Instant Video, as previously the case with Lovefilm Instant.
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