Trending: Thousands of Amazon employees to party with singer Lorde at CenturyLink Field in Seattle

amazonsignage2Amazon is reportedly planning a free streaming video service that’s supported by ads and doesn’t require a an annual Prime membership for $99.

The Wall Street Journal report comes hours after an announcement by Amazon that it will be hosting an event in New York next week, where it is expected to launch its set-top box. Amazon sent the press invitations this morning, saying: “Please join us for an update on our video business from Peter Larsen,” who is Amazon Kindle’s VP.

While the set-top box has been rumored for months, Amazon could be using the venue to make other announcements, as well. When it comes to hosting big splashy events, the online retailer is rather conservative, so it’s conceivable that there could be another surprise or two in the works. 

But an ad-supported video business won’t be one of them.

UPDATE: After initally providing no comment to GeekWire, a spokeswoman sent this statement: “We have a video advertising business that currently offers programs like First Episode Free and ads associated with movie and game trailers, and we’re often experimenting with new things, but we have no plans to offer a free streaming media service.”

The WSJ reports that the new service could launch in the coming months, and is likely to have access to the original TV series that Amazon has been producing, but also may include licensed programming. 

Once again, this content would be accessible to those who don’t subscribe to Prime, which is a departure from the company’s current strategy. The trade-off for the consumer is that he or she will have to watch commercials — much like Hulu.

In addition to the new streaming video service, the WSJ said Amazon may also offer free music videos, supported by advertising. In one scenario, someone who searches for Bruce Springsteen may be offered the option to watch the “Born in the U.S.A.” video, the WSJ added.

To date, Amazon’s Prime service has been the only way for consumers to watch streaming video, however, it’s been slow to take off. In comparison, Netflix is considered to have many more times the amount of traffic than Amazon. Opening it up to any consumer, even those who don’t want to pay, could expand the market — especially now that Amazon is raising its rates to $99 from $79 a year.

We called an Amazon spokesman to ask about the new service, but he declined to comment.

As with any unconfirmed report, the WSJ cautioned that Amazon could always indefinitely delay the project or alter it due to financial constraints.

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