While all eyes were on Matthew speeding home to Downton Abbey, Amazon was locking down the butler's pantry and tying up exclusive streaming rights to the blockbuster British soap opera.
Abbeyphiles may find it hard to accept but, quite soon now, they'll not be able to watch missed episodes, or wallow repeatedly in their favorite scenes, on Netflix or on the show's own website.
Amazon Prime already has Seasons 1 and 2 of the series, which airs on PBS in the United States and will have the just-concluded Season 3 beginning in June.
What's perhaps more significant, is that it will have exclusive rights, meaning that it will be the only legal source for Downton streaming. While the first season is still on Netflix, it won't be for much longer.
"Later this year, no digital subscription service other than Prime Instant Video will offer any seasons,” Amazon smirked.
The series, which for some reason has enormous appeal to Americans nostalgic for a past they never had, will definitely be around for at least one more season and may even go into a fifth season unless the populace comes to its senses before then.
Netflix has been awash in kudos over the success of its "House of Cards," a smash series that is sort of the mirror image of Downton Abbey. Instead of royals and their servants overcoming their baser instincts as they move regally towards equality, justice, love and what have you, House celebrates the drunken, seedy, corrupt and depraved atmosphere that Americans believe prevails in Washington, D.C.
It's a litte hard to tell which of these is the greater fantasy although those who have lived and worked in present-day Washington will tell you that, while the series may be entertaining, it is -- shall we say -- a bit of a stretch. Since no one we know of spent the early 20th Century in an English manor house, we're not able to gauge their opinion as to which series is the most far-fetched.
For those who have been unaware of Amazon's progress towards digital hegemony, the Downton Abbey coup may blow off their blinders. Amazon has been spending big bucks to acquire recent movie releases and TV series and many consumers would say it already has a more compelling, though smaller, catalog than Netflix.
The truth, however, is that the true film or TV addict needs both, since there is going to be less and less duplication as both players strive to cut exclusive deals for top content. Neither service is expensive but as anyone who has read his credit card statement recently will tell you, little things add up.
Netflix describes its price as $7.99 per month for streaming -- $96 a year, in other words. Amazon's streaming service is mostly free, although some top releases carry an extra charge. Amazon prices it at $79 a year, which sounds like a lot more than $7.99 a month.
Of course, if you're still paying attention, you'll know it's actually $16 less per year.
Not only that, but the $96 a year for Netflix gets you video steaming. Period. The $79 for Amazon Prime gets you video streaming plus free shipping on most Amazon purchases and other goodies from Amazon's vast array of products and services.
Of course, you can still watch over-the-air TV -- you know, Channel 5 and so forth -- for nothing, other than the constant array of commercials and fund-raisers. This comes as a shocking revelation sometimes and the occasional adolescent will assure you that watching "free TV" must be illegal. You might want to explain it to them someday when you're not polishing the silver or doing backroom deals with Congressmen.