HBO Shows Including The Sopranos Coming to Amazon Prime

Library content finally finds a non-authenticated home

Amazon has declared once again that it isn't kidding when it comes to fighting the streaming service wars: the company has signed an exclusive deal with HBO to distribute library content including The Sopranos, Six Feet Under, The Wire, Deadwood, Enlightened and Treme, as well as early seasons of currently-running series Boardwalk Empire and True Blood (both scheduled to end this year).

It's a more conservative move than it might appear for HBO—the company still reserves season-to-date content for its own streaming service, HBO Go, which has set the standard for friendly user interfaces among streaming apps, and with content on Go airing day-and-date with the network's linear iteration, the app remains very popular.

In fact, it's been somewhat too popular in recent months—the network's servers haven't been able to handle increased traffic on Sundays, when its big-ticket series Game of Thrones and True Detective premiere, so this is also a wise decision from a bandwidth perspective. Given that a certain amount of Sunday evening traffic is just subscribers watching old episodes of Eastbound & Down, Amazon will now be able to shoulder part of that load.

The e-tailing giant dove headfirst into the streaming video marketplace earlier this month with its new set-top box, the Fire TV, which added a robust gaming component and a not-quite-ready-for-prime-time voice search option to a package that attempts to work users' subscriptions into a single, searchable database. (Its main problem is that the big streaming video kahuna, Netflix, doesn't play well with this device.) But given that the Fire TV automatically calls up Amazon's iTunes-like library of more or less every piece of video content ever published, the device is also a great marketing tool for Amazon's own streaming service, Amazon Prime.

And that service just got quite a bit more valuable.

Still, this is a major victory for proponents of nontraditional TV distribution, who have long said that HBO's content could benefit from wider, non-authenticated distribution. Clearly, HBO owner Time Warner is beginning to agree.