It’s been a big week for Net Video convergence. A day after WalMart announced a wider entry into downloadable TV and Video, Amazon and Tivo are capturing headlines with a story which takes WalMart’s news and goes one better.
According to the articles, Amazon and Tivo are going live with a limited Beta test that will bring Amazon’s Unbox video download service directly to the TV through Tivo. Previously, Unbox downloaded videos, like similar services from Movielink and Cinema Now were set up for download and viewing on a PC.
During the Beta test, and presumably on broad release, users will sign up at Amazon and make purchases there. At the time of purchase they’ll be able to designate some combination of two computers/video devices or two Tivo units to watch the movie on. The content will then be downloaded to those devices. Downloads will take about one hour with average broadband connections. Backups can be burned to disc but they use the Windows Media copy protection DRM system and will not play in a home DVD player or on iPod’s. (Mac users will be able to download movies to Tivo’s but not their Macs).
After the Beta test – the length of which is not being disclosed – the joint service will be available to approximately 1/3 of Tivo subscribers. Users whose boxes came through DirecTV or Comcast (which is rolling out a DVR soon) will not have access.
From the studios, CBS, Fox, Lionsgate, Paramount, Warner Brothers and Universal are on board from the start. Sony is expected to participate at the wide release. Disney and Amazon are still talking about terms and inclusion of Disney in any part of the Unbox platform.
The news is good for consumers, and good for the movie industry (which continues to have pains at the box office but pleasures from sales for the home markets). As has been shown before, the Studios seem generally willing to spread their wares around to all the various download platforms that have a competitive shot at success. Disney and Sony are proving more conservative than their peers – but not by much. Likely, participation with one service versus another comes down to dotting I’s and crossing T’s on licensing terms (with heavy emphasis on the revenue share).
The merchants are going to keep fighting to see which download service wins out a few years from now. Given the amount of proprietary offerings there is bound to be some consolidation, some partnerships and some failures. With revenue from downloaded TV and Movie content projected by Informa to rise from $538m in 2006 to $3.9b in 2012 in the US (and $42M to $708m in the UK) there will also be some big winners. The studios are positioning themselves to win regardless of the merchant free-for-all.