Verizon Offering Free Netflix in Bid to Take on Amazon and Roku as Streaming Middleman

Verizon Offering Free Netflix in Bid to Take on Amazon and Roku as Streaming Middleman

The streaming wars have a new battleground: What platform will emerge as the biggest middleman, connecting consumers with their streaming services?

Its an area currently dominated by the likes of Roku and Amazon, but the telecom giant Verizon believes that it has a shot at being a contender.

On Wednesday, Verizon announced the beta launch of its streaming hub “+play,” which lets users search, subscribe, and pay for a variety of streaming offerings in one place, all connected to their existing cell phone or home internet bill.

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And to entice users to give it a try, Verizon says it is partnering with Netflix to give users a free year of Netflix Premium (which normally costs $19.99 per month) if they subscribe to another service through the hub.

At launch +play offers streaming services like NFL+, NBA League Pass, HBO Max, AMC+ and Peloton, among others.

“We’re thrilled to officially launch +play in an open beta, offering our customers exclusive access to offers and the tools to manage their growing number of subscription services,” said Erin McPherson, chief content officer for Verizon, in a statement. “As the network America relies on and one of the largest direct to consumer distributors in the U.S., Verizon is the partner of choice for content and subscriptions services, and we’re positioned to move the industry forward by offering customers more choice, and enabling a seamless billing and management experience.”

With +play, Verizon is taking aim at other companies seeking to intermediate the relationship between streaming services and consumers, helping those services grow and expand, while taking a small cut in the process.

The market leader in the space is Amazon, through its Prime Video Channels service (HBO Max recently returned to the service after a year-long absence), though Roku, which is the largest connected TV platform, has also made subscriptions a business priority. Google’s YouTube also recently entered the space through a product called “Primetime Channels.”

Of course YouTube, Amazon and Roku are all in the content space themselves, while Verizon has exited that business. The telecom company is betting that its status as a neutral player — one with tens of millions of users and credit card accounts — will help it take on those tech giants.