Amazon has a new standoff, with Disney

Another Amazon pricing dispute received came to light Monday when the online retailer removed pre-orders from some of Walt Disney Co.’s blockbuster movies. This comes as the company is also fighting with book publisher Hachette over e-book pricing. (Amazon’s founder and CEO, Jeffrey P. Bezos, is also the owner of The Washington Post.) (Reuters)

Amazon.com’s business tactics and power over the retail and media economy are again under the spotlight with a new dispute spilling into public view, this time with a media powerhouse: Disney.

The online retailer reportedly removed pre-orders of DVDs and Blu-ray discs for the Walt Disney Co.’s blockbuster movies “Captain America: The Winter’s Soldier” and “Maleficent,” according to Home Media Magazine.

By blocking pre-orders of films as a negotiating tactic, Amazon is flexing its muscle over how much it gets per sale as a distributor of Disney’s films and merchandise, analysts say. Amazon has used a similar approach with Time Warner’s home video division this year, blocking pre-orders of discs for films including “The Lego Movie.”

Amazon and Disney did not return requests for comment.

The dispute will not immediately hurt Disney, because DVDs are a small part of its overall revenue, analysts say. But box-office sales have been lackluster and movie studios have placed greater attention on DVD and Blu-ray sales to extend the profits of its films.

The pricing dispute comes at a time when media and distribution companies are converging, with Amazon Instant Video serving as both a partner and competitor with Disney and other Hollywood studios.

“I’d say the companies are about as evenly matched as they get, but Amazon may have more leverage as the distributor because it can wait things out longer than Disney,” said Tuna Amobi, an entertainment and media analyst for S&P Capital IQ.

Amazon, whose chief executive, Jeffrey P. Bezos, owns The Washington Post, has demonstrated great determination in its increasing number of pricing disputes. Its dispute with the book publisher Hachette has only escalated over four months.

Over the weekend, 900 authors — including big names such as Steven King and Suzanne Collins — signed a petition that ran as a two-page ad in the New York Times. They said Amazon has singled them out for retaliation. Hachette has also accused Amazon of strong-arming the publishing industry with vast dominance in the e-books market. Amazon has tried to keep prices too low, Hachette and many authors say, which has harmed book writers and publishers.

Amazon responded with a Web site at www.readersunited.com, where it defends its practices, saying the “unjustifiably high” prices Hachette wants to charge for e-books are not in the interest of consumers.

Follow The Post’s tech blog, The Switch, where technology and policy connect.

Cecilia Kang is a national technology reporter, writing about tech and Internet policies at the Federal Communications Commission and Federal Trade Commission and how regulations affect businesses and consumers.
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