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01/12/2015 12:45 pm ET Updated Jan 12, 2015

This Could Be Amazon Prime's Big Breakthrough

Amazon Studios

Will a pair of Golden Globe awards drive hordes of subscribers to Amazon Prime? Perhaps: The online retailing giant’s $99-per-year service is the only way to watch “Transparent,” the critically acclaimed series that took home Amazon’s first Golden Globes on Sunday night.

"Transparent" follows the story of a Los Angeles family whose father, played by Jeffrey Tambor, comes out as transgender. At Sunday's Golden Globes, the series beat out shows from big players like HBO, Netflix and The CW to win Best TV Series, Musical or Comedy. Tambor also bested Don Cheadle, William H. Macey, Ricky Gervais and Louie CK for Best Actor in a TV Series, Musical or Comedy.

The wins are a huge coup for Amazon, which has invested heavily in original programming in an attempt to get more people to become members of Amazon Prime, the loyalty program that offers free shipping for $99 a year. Prime members shop more frequently and spend more money at Amazon than non-members, so the company tries to entice as many people as possible to join by offering other perks, including a Netflix-like streaming video service, a streaming music service, unlimited cloud photo storage and discounts on some products.

Because Prime is the only place to watch the show, the critical acclaim for “Transparent” could spur more people to join the service. Buzz around awards shows -- especially the Oscars -- tends to lead more people to watch the movies that were nominated and won awards, though less viewership information is available for TV shows that stream online. And more Prime members would mean more people buying more things on Amazon.

(Amazon doesn’t disclose how many people are members of Prime, though the company has said the service has “tens of millions” of members.)

The accolades and praise for "Transparent" -- along with a public thank you during the Golden Globes to Amazon and its founder and CEO, Jeff Bezos -- are a welcome dose of good PR for the company. Amazon’s image took a hit in the press during its recent (and now resolved) battle with the book publisher Hachette, in which the two companies spent months at odds over eBook pricing. The company also suffered an embarrassing setback with the flop of its smartphone, the Fire Phone, which Bezos announced with pomp at a huge event in Seattle in June. The Fire Phone has sold horribly, and Amazon took a $170 million hit to write down the phone's value.

Critics have also focused on working conditions in Amazon’s many warehouses. The Supreme Court recently ruled against a group of workers who had sued Amazon, saying they should be paid for the time they spent waiting in line to be searched after their warehouse shifts ended.

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