Up until now, Amazon Prime hasn’t written an “exclusivity” clause into its contracts with streaming TV, which means that those programs can run concurrently on Netflix. It’s exactly what happened with shows like Doctor Who, the BBC drama that could be found on both services. Starting on Feb. 15, though, the good doctor, along with several other BBC programs to be named in the coming days, will disappear from Amazon Prime.
The issue at hand is the new push for exclusivity—the Prime streaming service has grown by 53 percent in the last year, and the powers-that-be now feel that they’re in a position to stage a real war with Netflix. The foothold has been established, and the days of sharing are over. With Netflix securing its BBC programming with a last-minute deal on Jan. 19, Amazon Prime is bowing out.
For many users, this won’t have a huge practical effect, since the shows will still be available on Netflix. Instead, the move is largely symbolic, and the ripples will be felt in the future. The exclusivity strategy shows that Amazon Prime now feels empowered to fight Netflix on something like level ground, and with their huge gains in streaming shows (The Americans, 24, Justified, Hannibal) and original content (especially the comedy hit Transparent), it’s likely that they’ll begin to take an increasingly large chunk of streaming entertainment that previously would have fallen under the “Netflix or nothing” umbrella. With Amazon investing more than $1.3 billion in the Prime service, the so-called “Streaming Wars” just became very, very real. Frequent users will no longer be able to pick sides, unless they’re willing to miss out on much of their favorite programming; the streaming monopoly has become a duopoly, and Prime is here to stay.
In the end, of course, this is a very good thing for TV and film fans. With the bidding wars that are sure to escalate in the coming months and years, our favorite movies and shows will be able to secure favorable deals, meaning that more and more will be available on either Prime or Netflix. Let the golden age of immediate content gratification continue!