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Overstock to follow Amazon into the new age of streaming video

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Jeffrey Tambor of Transparent

Hollywood Foreign Press

It’s been a long and bumpy road for Amazon’s video streaming aspirations, but thanks to a home run with the critics in Transparent, and some big plans for the future, the e-commerce giant is finally seeing the fruits of its long labor. That fruit must smell sweet indeed, as one of the company’s biggest competitors in online retail, Overstock, has decided to go all in with streaming video as well, today announcing plans for a fledgling video service of its own.

According to The Hollywood Reporter, Overstock plans to launch the new service in mid 2015 with a catalog of around 30,000 downloadable titles to own and rent, and then lean into a full-service streaming operation loaded with acquisitions and even in-house production titles. With a claimed 20-40 million unique site visits each month, Overstock claims to be second only to Amazon in online sales, and has eyes on the burgeoning streaming realm as a new source of revenue.

“We already have the traffic,” Overstock CEO Patrick Byrne said in a statement. “We’re looking for a bigger share of (Amazon’s) wallet.”

Overstock plans to tailor its offering by monitoring the shopping habits of its millions of customers. As for the logistics of piping content into living rooms, the new service will reportedly be run by an undisclosed 3rd party. Much like Amazon’s Prime service, Overstock’s streaming arm will be tied to its own loyalty program, which currently costs $20 per year, for an undisclosed additional fee. The company hopes to erect the streaming service in full by the end of 2015.

The move is a bold one for a relative unknown when it comes to the ins and outs of dealing with content providers — a tricky game that has sent plenty of contenders away from the bargaining table with empty pockets, including tech giant Intel. Amazon has clawed its way into general relevancy, acquiring a truckload of content over recent years, but the service still pales in comparison to Netflix when it comes to sheer bandwidth use, barely measuring on the richter scale.

Even with the deck stacked, Byrne was confident in his statement, claiming Overstock already has ties to Hollywood through the company’s DVD sales according to Variety. The company has large aspirations for its new service, hoping to catch the gaze of shoppers with what Byrne calls a “skinny Netflix.” And while it may be some time before we anoint an Overstock original series as the new “it” show, it’s certainly not out of the realm of possibility in the uncharted new realm of online video. Just ask the cast of Transparent.