SURPRISE: Amazon Prime Video is available in Australia, right now - and The Grand Tour has begun

Photo: The Grand Tour/ IMDb.

The cut-throat streaming entertainment market in Australia has just seen a giant multinational competitor barge in, with Amazon Prime Video reportedly soft launching last night.

Speculation has swirled recently that Amazon would start local operations next year. The opening up of Prime Video could be seen as a step in that direction.

Technology site EFTM and sister publication Gizmodo Australia both reported last night that Australian users are now able to sign up for Prime membership and watch Amazon-exclusive videos.

Australian viewers can use their Amazon logins to subscribe to Prime for £7.99 per month or US$10.99 per month.

The video service still blocks Australian users from some of its shows that are locally licensed to competitors such as Stan and Foxtel. But the mere fact that the Prime Video is available to Australians should send shockwaves to local streaming rivals.

Photo: The Grand Tour/ Facebook.

Already the fierce Australian market, with competitors fighting for wallets in a relatively small population, has claimed a couple of casualties. Local player Quickflix entered voluntary administration in April, although US company Karma Media Holdings acquired it in October for a possible revival; and Foxtel will be shutting down its Presto service in January, copping a loss of $27 million for its troubles.

Amazon’s much-hyped original motoring show The Grand Tour, featuring former Top Gear hosts Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond and James May, will start streaming in officially Prime-sanctioned countries like the US and UK from 11am today AEDT. A promotional video for the show earlier this week had hinted at Amazon Prime Video’s global expansion plans, when it was mentioned The Grand Tour would be available to view in more than 200 countries in December.

But it seems now Australian fans can now watch the series immediately — without any geo-hacks — as long as they subscribe to Prime.

An Amazon spokesperson said after publication of this story: “We have not launched Amazon Prime in Australia. The service some Australians have signed-up for is the US or UK Prime membership, which provides free, fast shipping within the US or UK, as well as access to some Amazon Originals, such as The Grand Tour, where we have the global rights.”

Amazon’s plan to launch an Australian arm next year is still shrouded in mystery, although an investment executive was reportedly briefed that the operation would involve distribution centres in every state, general items and fresh food upon a September launch — and even physical stores in regional areas.

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