It was rumored in May, tested in a limited beta in July and now it’s here. Thursday, Amazon officially opened the door to their new on demand video service. It’s download free, straight through the pipes, streamed on demand; another Internet TV and movie distribution platform in an already crowded marketplace.
The not so creatively named Amazon Video on Demand is an evolution of Amazon’s prior generation Unbox video service. Unlike Unbox, Amazon Video on Demand requires no software downloads to view the video streams. Audiences can instantly watch widescreen format, stereo TV and movie content via the browser on their PC or Mac. They can also watch the programming via their TV if they have the appropriate hardware extensions (or are able to connect a PC to a computer). The representative partners helping bridge the gap between TV and the computer include Sony (via Bravia TV’s), TiVo and Microsoft (via Windows Media Extenders including the Xbox 360). (TiVo was a partner in the prior Unbox version too) .
Amazon’s “Unbox,” will not be completely abandoned in the improvements. Unbox will remain the software agent required for when consumers want to download a local copy of programming.
According to Amazon, approximately 40k titles are available – for rent or purchase via the service. The first two minutes of all the programs will be available for preview. Pricing for the on-demand service is to be tiered and somewhat variable but most movies will sell for between $7.99 and $14.99. Rentals, which can sit unused for up to 30 days, must be watched within 24hrs after the stream is started.
In use, the service seems to function well. In limited testing, both the audio and video quality were crisp when viewed on a computer, and when on the TV (tested via a video-out feed from the computer). As with any streaming service, though, the image and sound quality are dependent on a consistently stable and fast Internet connection.
In Internet video distribution, there’s no shortage of services offering overlapping/redundant content via different models. Competitively, Amazon Video on Demand will match up against the already crowded and fragmented market. Among potential rivals are ad-supported (browser based) Hulu (and eventually in the UK, Project Kangaroo). On the subscription front, there’s Netflix (which also has built PC to TV bridges via partnership). Then, there are services like Xbox Live, Sony’s own offering and Apple TV/iTunes.
Amazon now has a chip in the game but it could be a long while before anyone takes the pot.
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