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Amazon Video Direct Challenges YouTube

In Amazon’s continuing quest to be all things to all people, the online retailer has announced that it will soon allow users to upload their own videos, just like YouTube. Furthermore, they’ll be able to charge money for the privilege, or let Amazon run ads to eventually let some of the revenue trickle back down to them. To incentivize ambitious video producers, the company is also offering $1 million to be split among the 100 most popular videos in any given month — an average of $10,000 per person, although the number will likely vary based on views.

Amazon's new initiative is called Amazon Video Direct. The program, launching today (May 10), is available to customers in the United States, the United Kingdom, Germany, Austria and Japan. Unlike YouTube, which is generally pretty rigid (and often borderline hostile) for content creators, Amazon Video Direct wants to keep things flexible for filmmakers.

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Once a creator uploads a video, he or she can choose to include it in the Amazon Prime subscription program, add it to the Amazon Streaming Partners Program subscription, let users buy or rent it à la carte or let anyone watch it, provided they’re willing to sit through some ads. How much money each of these situations generates is variable, but it’s at least more versatile than YouTube’s “ads and money, or no ads and no money” deal for most creators.

There are only two hard requirements: Videos must be available in HD, and they must be closed-captioned for the hearing-impaired. Otherwise, Amazon doesn’t allow pornography, copyright infringement, public domain videos, promotional videos for other sites or content deemed offensive. (Amazon says, “What we deem offensive is probably about what you would expect,” whatever that means.) There’s probably some wiggle room in each of these clauses, which video producers will no doubt start testing immediately.

To kickstart quality content on Amazon Video Direct, Amazon has partnered with Conde Nast, HowStuffWorks, Samuel Goldwyn Films, Mashable, Mattel, Pro Guitar Lessons and a handful of other established content providers. The service also expects to attract high-end indie filmmakers who can post and monetize their videos without jumping through YouTube’s hoops.

To set up an account, you can check out Amazon Video Direct’s website, but be aware that you’ll need to agree to a complicated legal document and set up business payment information before you can post anything. 

Marshall Honorof

Marshall Honorof is an editor for Tom's Guide, covering gaming hardware, security and streaming video. After hours, you can find him practicing taekwondo or doing deep dives on classic sci-fi.