Is Amazon wading into the free video business?

Jason Del Rey of Re/code may be prescient and on to something going on with Amazon. He notes that the Seattle-based digital retail and entertainment giant could be dipping its toe in the free video business.

The company released the first episode of the third season of The Fashion Fund, a Conde Nast-backed reality show that chronicles top fashion design contestants as they compete for a large cash prize.

The show, featuring Vogue's Anna Wintour and CFDA Chairman Diane von Furstenberg, is currently available at no cost on amazon.com, outside of the Amazon Prime world, but viewers must watch a few minutes of commercials for the privilege.

Del Rey notes that this could be one of three scenarios: 1) it’s just Amazon getting in to the unscripted video business, 2) it could be a content play to grab as many viewers to leverage Amazon’s new fashion line (which is associated with the show), or 3) Amazon may be priming itself (sorry, there was honestly no pun intended when I wrote that) to develop and launch more ad-supported content that is available for everyone, especially a large swath of those who don’t wish to pay the $99 Amazon Prime premium or buy/rent episodes of shows.

According to an email from Amazon to Del Rey, an Amazon spokesperson isn’t divulging much:

“We’re always experimenting on behalf of our customers, including experimenting with ads,” she said in an email to Re/code. “For this Fashion Fund project, we found it to be a very effective way to fund its production. The show has strong interest from advertisers.”

But one thing is for sure: “Prime Video will remain ad-free,” she added.

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