Will Amazon Prime kill free-to-air television companies?


Amazon’s imminent arrival in Australia has certainly created a bit of interest in the last few weeks, with articles written on the subject matter here, here and here.

Australian retailers such as Woolworths Limited (ASX: WOW), Wesfarmers Ltd (ASX: WES), and JB Hi-Fi Limited (ASX: JBH) have all scored a mention in discussion over who’s going to end up as Amazon’s road-kill.

And then there’s Baby Bunting Group Ltd (ASX: BBN). Could Amazon do here what it did in the US when it bought Quidsi, Inc., the owner of

None of this is necessarily a fait accompli, but whether Australian retailers can stand up to the Amazon challenge or not will depend on the nature of their competitive response, and perhaps the size of their existing margins, with those retailers enjoying the highest margins perhaps most at risk.

However, Amazon isn’t called the “everything store” for nothing and it’s not just retailers who have to prepare.

With the possible launch in Australia of Amazon Prime (a membership that offers US customers free two-day shipping and video streaming and much more for a flat annual fee of US$99), it’s possible Australian customers will also have the opportunity to enjoy video streaming with similar offerings to Netflix and Stan. Presto couldn’t stand the competitive heat and is closing its services in January 2017.

There are complexities here though with how Amazon can actually deliver media content to Australian consumers, but assuming it can achieve this over time, who else is at risk?

Seven West Media Ltd (ASX: SWM), Nine Entertainment Co Holdings Ltd (ASX: NEC), and Ten Network Holdings Limited (ASX: TEN) anyone?

Each of these media companies televise live sport and with the recent announcement that Amazon in the US is now in talks to stream live sports, I do wonder if Amazon also has its long-term sights on Australia’s anti-siphoning laws giving free-to-air media the first right of refusal on the televising of popular sporting events.

All of the above is speculation of course, but they’re scenarios worth considering as anything is possible with the entry of a highly-unconventional company like Amazon into Australia.

Foolish takeaway

If you need any convincing of how serious Amazon takes itself, just have a read of any of Amazon’s annual reports. Each of them include the original 1997 letter which states:

… this is Day 1 for the Internet and, if we execute well, for Today, online commerce saves customers money and precious time. Tomorrow, through personalization, online commerce will accelerate the very process of discovery. uses the Internet to create real value for its customers and, by doing so, hopes to create an enduring franchise, even in established and large markets …

… we believe that a fundamental measure of our success will be the shareholder value we create over the long term.

As a consumer, I’m excited by Amazon’s imminent entry into Australia.

And as an observer of the competitive landscape for Australian retail, media, and who knows what else, this is going to be a fascinating time to witness the effects of competition on the established order by a company that treats the concept of the long term more seriously than anyone else.

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The Motley Fool Australia's parent company Motley Fool Holdings Inc. owns shares of Motley Fool contributor Edward Vesely owns shares of The Motley Fool Australia has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy. This article contains general investment advice only (under AFSL 400691). Authorised by Bruce Jackson.

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