If you had any interest in a monthly Amazon Prime subscription, we hope you acted quickly, because the offering has already been scrapped without a detailed explanation. Two weeks ago, the company revealed that it would lower the entry barrier to its Prime service, which has traditionally required a lump sum payment of $79.99 for a year's worth of free two-day shipping (plus cheap overnight rates) and access to thousands of digital videos and books.
Instead of an annual subscription, US customers briefly had the option to sign up for $7.99 a month, which worked out to be nearly $16 more a year but required less upfront commitment -- perfect for folks who may have only wanted the perks of Prime through the holidays. Some speculated that Amazon might have been attempting to lure users away from Netflix and Hulu Plus, which have similarly monthly rates for access to their video streaming libraries.
Last week, Netflix CEO Reed Hastings noted that Amazon is spending big bucks in its attempt to compete with video streaming heavyweights. To build out its digital video catalog, Amazon is losing between $500 million and $1 billion a year according to Hastings, who produced those estimates based on the value of content deals that Amazon has scored. By comparison, Netflix is reportedly expected to spend $2.1 billion on content in the coming year.
It's unclear if the monthly program is gone for good or if Amazon just wants to evaluate its reception and proceed accordingly. The company tends to hold its cards close to its chest, so we may never hear more details. For now, you'll have to live with this spokesperson's stilted comment: "We regularly test new options for our customers. At this time, we've completed our test and are no longer signing up new customers for Amazon Prime monthly memberships."