Amazon vs. Warner Bros. – Customers Lose

Had problems pre-ordering Blu-rays or DVDs from Amazon lately? Perhaps you wanted to book a copy of blockbuster hit ‘The Lego Movie‘ (scheduled for release next week) but were stymied with a “Sign up to be notified when this item becomes available” notice? This all stems back to a petty squabble between Amazon and Warner Brothers, and there’s no end in sight.

I’m sure you’ve heard by now about the contract dispute Amazon is having with Hachette Press, which has resulted in the retailer blocking or delaying customer orders for Hachette books. Less widely publicized – but more to our interests here – the same thing is happening between Amazon and Warner Bros. What this means for Blu-ray and DVD fans is that Amazon has completely shut down all pre-orders for titles from Warner and all sub-labels it distributes (including HBO, BBC, New Line, etc.), and will not feature them in browsing lists of upcoming movies. This is intended as a strong-arm tactic to force Warner to sell product to Amazon for lower wholesale prices. At least for the time being, Warner is holding its ground and will not lower prices.

If Amazon eventually got its way, would that mean lower retail prices for Amazon shoppers? I tend to doubt it. Most likely, retail prices will remain the same, but Amazon can claim a higher profit margin per unit sold. Customers will probably see no difference or benefit to the outcome of this dispute.

Fortunately, however, Amazon has been opening Warner titles for sale once they reach street date. You should be able to order ‘The Lego Movie’ from Amazon next Tuesday. Unlike the Hachette situation, Amazon has not (yet) taken to delaying shipment of Warner movies once ordered, though that may happen in the future.

Until this gets resolved, customers will not be able to lock in lower pre-order prices for Warner movies. Amazon Prime subscribers will also lose the benefit of pre-orders shipping early in order to arrive on street date.

Will this inconvenience drive you away from Amazon, to shop for Blu-rays at other retailers?

Will You Stop Shopping at Amazon?

View Results

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[Source: New York Times.]


  1. timcharger

    “If Amazon eventually got its way, would that mean lower retail prices for Amazon shoppers? I tend to doubt it. Most likely, retail prices will remain the same, but Amazon can claim a higher profit margin per unit sold.”


  2. It’s annoying, but I’ll stick with Amazon. This has actually been going on for almost a month now (as Josh probably knows), but it took a big release like THE LEGO MOVIE for people to finally notice it. It’s ironic that Warners is the studio Amazon is playing hardball with as, overall, their MSRPs on releases are pretty reasonable. I wonder if Amazon would have the cajones to play this game with Disney.

  3. I guess that would explain why there is no preorder for season 4 of Game of Thrones up yet. Past seasons Amazon had the preorder up while the season was still airing.

  4. Timcharger

    Disney movies are NOT ridiculously overpriced.

    They DO sell at those high prices. It’s that simple. If they didn’t sell at those higher prices, Disney would lower them. They are priced as the market would allow for them.

    It’s no coincidence that Disney DIDN’T offer a coupon when Frozen is released, but they DID for Lone Ranger.


    And now that Amazon has killed off many competitors and changed the marketplace, they will do the same as Disney. They will sell stuff as high as they can get away with. When you buy from Amazon (or wait to buy from Amazon when they finally price match a competitor), you are encouraging them to continue this behavior.

    Look at all those moms and dads who throw in an “overpriced” Disney DVD into their shopping carts because their kids nagged for it. They/we are encouraging Disney to charge those prices.

    • William Henley

      If a store in a small town charges $10 for a loaf of bread because they are the only store in town, and people buy from them because they have to have bread, does that mean that the bread is not overpriced?

      • Timcharger

        There are many stores in that town. There’s the Dreamworks Bread Store. There’s Universal Bakery. There’s Warner Brothers & Mom’s Cakes.

        If the Disney Bread Store is able to sell a ton their bread at higher prices, despite the lower prices in the other bread stores, then no, Disney’s bread is not “overpriced.”

        Do I dislike paying more for Disney blus? Yes, I agree. What I’m saying is pure economics. It’s not “overpriced” if competition exists and prices hold firm.

  5. Sorry Amazon but you are not GOD. You will not strong arm Warner into submission, it will backfire.

    I think it would send someone the wrong message, but it would be funny if everyone and their mother “signed up to be notified” – then bought their movies from elsewhere, then when Amazon sees all these potential customers and orders in all this product, everyone flips em off and says they already bought theirs elsewhere.

    I also believe Warner is an unfair target as their prices overall are lower. Disney is middle ground, the most expensive ones are SONY. Go figure, the company that wants the format to grow and they’re the worst offender.

    • William Henley

      Actually, I have done this, but not on purpose. I see news about an upcoming release, Amazon doesn’t have it listed, I see it on another site, think “Huh, must be an exclusive” and order from the other site. I have probably had a half dozen in the past month or so that I preordered through Zaavi because of this.

  6. Elizabeth

    Jeepers, all of the options for this “poll” seem pretty slanted against Amazon.

    I had my copy of The Lego Movie preordered long before this dispute so this has had zero effect on me. Warner doesn’t release enough good movies for this to bother me.

  7. These retailers have got some nerve I think. Its up to Warner to decide what their wholesale prices are and if Amazon who’s questionable tax and employment record is already affecting their reputation, think they can afford to lose customers by not stocking products people want so be it. People including me will simply shop elsewhere.

    This sort of BS by big bully retailers is putting people out of business. A different market and product I grant you but as an example in the UK, Dairy Farmers are being forced to stop farming because the retailers demand such low prices for Milk the farmers lose money producing it!

  8. I’d like to change my vote… I was saying I would order Warner titles elsewhere and use amazon for most everything else. But now I look at my buying habits and determine it to be a case by case basis. More often than not it seems the B&Ms are striking back. Amazon seems to be slow to match, and even if your item ships AFTER a price adjustment, they charge the higher price and refund the difference later.

  9. Scott

    Amazon has saved me boatloads of money on dvds over the years. You are speculating that they will not pass the savings on to the customer. That is a straw man argument.You don’t know. I have never felt ripped off by Amazon. And Warners isn’t some Mom & Pop operation that are gonna suffer if they lose the fight. I find it hard to object to a vendor wanting to bargain a better deal for themselves AND their customers.

  10. Timcharger

    It’s not a straw man argument.

    The vast majority of “deals” on Amazon are price matches following a promotion
    at Walmart, Best Buy, or Target. And this has been going on for a few years now.
    Amazon also has a practice of lagging on its price matching. Often they price
    near-match first before actually doing it days later. It sounds silly, but it’s true.
    You’ll find Amazon doing this ridiculous pricing scheme not on new release titles,
    but often on promotions of older titles.

    Given Amazon’s pricing schemes lately, it would be a greater stretch to believe
    that it would pass on the savings to the consumer.

  11. William Henley

    I’ve had Lego Movie preordered for months, and actually got a $10 credit because they pulled the version I originally ordered.

    Truthfully, the main reason I preorder from Amazon is the preorder guarantee (well, that and Prime shipping). I actually had an issue a few weeks ago where someone else released something for $20 cheaper than Amazon before release day, and Amazon didn’t drop their price, so I ended up having to return the product to Amazon. To me, the preorder price guarantee shouldn’t just be that I get Amazon’s lowest price, but I get the lowest price of anyone (especially when the other company is Best Buy).

    I have pretty much gotten to where I preorder from Amazon, but I check the Sunday before release date, and if someone else has it cheaper, or the price on Amazon hasn’t dropped to a price I am comfortable in paying, I cancel the order.

    I am actually finding myself starting to preorder from Best Buy and Zaavi now, and a couple of times from Walmart. I love Amazon, but if they are not going to let me preorder OR guarantee me the lowest prices, there are other places I can take my business to.

  12. Timcharger

    Oh, did Amazon lower their pre-order price to “pass on their savings to the consumer”?

    Oh, they didn’t. I’m shocked.

    They renegotiated their wholesale prices with Warner Bros only to price-match
    Walmart’s $34.96 price. I thought Amazon was my friend. :sarcastic08:

  13. Me

    I just noticed that Amazon has removed some WB titles from its Instant Prime subscription service – does this gave anything to do with that also? Really annoyed to lose a show half-way through the season!

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