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Amazon Launches YouTube Competitor Offering $1 Million Monthly Prize to Video Creators

Amazon Video Direct becomes available to consumers on Tuesday

Amazon is mixing YouTube with Netflix to create a new program that lets almost anybody sell video to its giant base of viewers, and it’s dangling a $1 million prize to get creators interested.

The new program, called Amazon Video Direct, is a self-service program for people to make their video available to Amazon customers. The can sell it as pay-per-view, through direct subscriptions, as a new perk to anyone that subscribes to Amazon’s Prime or Prime Video, or as free clips supported by advertising.

And anyone with a valid Amazon account in the U.S., U.K., Germany or Japan can sign up for a self-publishing account.

That mix of open access creates a corner of Amazon that competes more directly with user-generated sites like Google’s YouTube and Vimeo. Amazon has been widening its video ambitions this year, taking on Netflix more directly last month when it began offering customers the option of subscribing directly to its Prime Video service at a cheaper rate than its bigger rival.

It also adds Amazon to a list of options for online video creators who want to figure out how to make money off their projects. YouTube launched subscriptions last year, but its Red service provides a membership to YouTube as a whole, not to individual creators’ content. And smaller rival Vimeo recently launched the ability for uploaders to set up subscriptions, after previously setting up a way to charge for individual films, episodes or series.

Amazon Video Direct is also setting up a monthly $1 million award pool. No single creator is likely to ever win the full $1 million, but everyone who makes their titles available on Amazon Video Direct has a shot at a monthly bonus from that pool of money. Amazon will doll out the fund every month based on the Top 100 AVD titles in Prime Video.

The prize money harkens back to the early days of Amazon Studios, the Hollywood arm of the e-commerce giant. Amazon Studios is now known for shows like “Transparent” and “Mozart in the Jungle” with established actors, directors and producers, but when it began, its mission was decidedly grassroots. It was supposed to be a place where anybody could upload scripts, and diamonds in the rough would be cut and polished in to gems. To attract submissions, it promised to dole out $2.7 million in prize money to projects submitted in 2011.

At the new Amazon Video Direct, initial participants are established names, like Conde Nast Entertainment, How Stuff Works, Samuel Goldwyn Films, The Guardian, Mashable, Mattel, StyleHaul and Business Insider.