Amazon, Redbox Expand Streaming Video with M&A, Blip Raises $12M

There’s a new dawn for streaming video services, promising cheaper access to millions of video convents.  Amazon is gearing up their streaming service in partnership with Viacom to provide a stiff competition to Netflix, while Blip raised a new round of funding to enhance their web content. Here are some recent developments in streaming video sector.

Amazon Expands its Catalog with Viacom

The online retailer has a deal with the media group Viacom that allows it to expand its range of videos available to stream on the internet, and represents the final steps in a plan to launch a subscription service to compete with Netflix.

The online video market, currently dominated by Netflix, should become increasingly competitive in the coming years as large companies are entering this segment.  Netflix currently streams service with nearly 22 million subscribers in the United States.

Subscribers to Amazon Prime, benefiting from both improved delivery times for their free online shipping and web-based video streaming, will have access to a total catalog of 15,000 movies and TV television programs, with the addition of Viacom programs covered by this new deal.

Viacom, which claims MTV, Nickelodeon and Paramount Studios in its conglomerate, will now be available on Amazon’s Prime Instant Video service. Until now, major media companies like CBS, Warner Bros. Time Warner, News Corp Fox, Sony, Comcast, NBC Universal and Walt Disney have licensed programming to Amazon.

The improvement of this catalog also allows Amazon to provide even more attractive content to its multimedia Kindle Fire tablet.  Amazon wants to open its collection of licensed films and television programs as a separate service for clients outside the prime segment, and use it to boost the Kindle Fire tablet.

Analysts estimate that Amazon sold about five million Kindle Fire tablets in the fourth quarter, and the company can sell more than double that in 2012. An essential part of Amazon’s strategy is to have lots of content, including video, music and applications for tablets users.

Blip Raises $12-Million Round of Funding

Online video network announced a $12-million round of funding. The company is also re-branding its name from to simply Blip.

Blip will use the new cash to develop more sophisticated tools and products for web content providers. Blip will also utilize the funding to enrich its advertising and distribution platforms.

The new round of funding includes investment from Bain Capital and Canaan Parters. The company earlier had raised an equal amount of debt funding from Silicon Valley Bank.

Blips currently has more than 13 million unique monthly visitors in the US. The company provides 330 million video views per month to its 30 million users globally, counting one fourth of these are paying subscribers. It also streams video content to a number of other platforms such as iTunes, YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, Roku, Verizon FiOS, TiVo and Sony TV.

Redbox Acquires Blockbuster Express

Movie and video game rental kiosk provider, Redbox (parent company Coinstar), has entered into an agreement to buy NCR Blockbuster Express kiosks and related assets for $100 million. The acquisition includes the purchase of the DVD kiosks, certain retailer contracts, and DVD inventory from NCR’s entertainment line of business.

The latest move comes just after Redbox entered a deal with Verizon to offer a new movie streaming service similar to Netflix. Redbox, which currently has 35,400 kiosks installed nationwide and roughly 9,000 existing Blockbuster kiosks will rebrand the acquired Blockbuster kiosks with its Redbox label.

“We are very pleased to enter into this agreement with NCR,” said Scott Di Valerio, chief financial officer of Coinstar, Inc. and interim president of Redbox. “As the global self-service solutions leader, NCR has strong technology, manufacturing and servicing capabilities, and we look forward to leveraging their expertise as Coinstar continues to grow its core automated retail businesses and expands its offerings.”

YouTube still leads the online video market.  But the majority of big and small players are now looking to create more video inventory and a range of services around premium content to attract more users and create a new online video advertising ecosystem.