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“Given Amazon’s size and ambitions, we continue to track their progress carefully as well.”

With that brief statement, Netflix CEO Reed Hastings acknowledged one of the online streaming video service’s perceived competitors in its quarterly letter to shareholders as part of today’s first quarter 2012 earnings report: Amazon Prime Instant Video.

Overall, Netflix came in near the top end of its earlier forecast with 23.41 million domestic and 3.07 million international streaming subscribers, adding nearly three million subscribers in the first quarter. DVD subscribers continued to decline, falling more than one million from Q4 2011 to 10.09 million.

And financially, Netflix lost less than most analysts expected: $4.58 million, or 8 cents per share. A year earlier, it earned $60.23 million, or $1.11 per share.

Hastings and Netflix CFO David Well, in the shareholder letter that accompanied the financial results, mentioned Amazon’s potential competitive threat four times in three paragraphs — without actually calling it a threat.

Instead first noting Hulu’s new original series, and platform and country expansion, Hastings and Well then continued, “Amazon continues to grow its U.S. video content library available through Amazon Prime. We think they are still substantially behind Hulu in viewing hours. Given Amazon’s size and ambitions, we continue to track their progress carefully as well.”

Netflix says instead, it continues to maintain traditional cable and satellite video companies  (in industry parlance, multichannel video programming distributors, or MVPDs) and cable networks with their TV Everywhere initiatives are Netflix’ biggest long-term competition.

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