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September 6, 2008

Unbox reborn as Amazon Video on Demand

Amazon Video on Demand logo Amazon has been testing a video on demand service since July and this week it became generally available as Amazon Video on Demand and absorbed the old Unbox video download service as well.

The finished Video On Demand service is now compatible with a wealth of device types: Windows PC’s, Macs, suitable TiVo models, Windows Media Center extender boxes (like the Xbox 360), the Sony Bravia Internet Video Link TVs used in the beta, and many portable media players. Amazon is offering a vast catalog of 40,000 movies and TV shows. Some are free, but for most of them the prices are:

All rentals expire 24 hrs after purchase and all offer a 2 minute preview.

If you aren’t interested in rental and streaming, you can still purchase and download movies as before using the Unbox application and they will always be available in your personal video library. Rentals will be there too (at least for 24 hours) in case you get interrupted while watching or want to watch on a different system than where you order.

Initial reviews indicate the Amazon Video on Demand service is quite usable albeit with some video glitches reported, so you might care to try some of the free videos before plunking down some cash. A bigger question if you are a TV fan is whether or not you might prefer the Hulu service which is free, but has commercials. (Hulu does offer some movies as well.)

Finally, my perpetual rant is that Internet video won’t take off until it is dead simple for the average consumer to use and use in the room where they have their TV set. Amazon Video on Demand goes quite a way towards solving the simplicity problem. As for getting that video into the room where the TV resides, Amazon does its best with the available technical options and is way ahead of most alternatives with the enhanced TiVo lashup which now supports streaming rentals.

Posted at 6:10 pm. Filed under Amazon, Brands, Companies, Hulu, Internet, Streaming video, Unbox, Video Downloads, Video on Demand

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August 5, 2008

YouTube grabs part of online Olympic pie

YouTube logo Considering that the 2008 Summer Olympics start on August 8th, there was a rather odd announcement by the International Olympic Committee yesterday that Google’s YouTube will provide "about three hours a day of exclusive content from the IOC’s Olympic Broadcasting Services on a dedicated channel during the Games." The content will include highlights and daily wrap-ups provided by the IOC, but not live coverage. No word on how many languages will be supported.

Hold on a sec – what about NBC which has partnered with Microsoft’s MSN to show the Games online in the USA? Not to worry – the IOC sells exclusive national online rights just like they sell national broadcast rights and YouTube will be geotargeting the Olympics channel so that only Internet users in "77 territories – South Korea, India and Nigeria among them – that aren’t officially covered by Olympic sponsors" can view it.

This likely isn’t a bonanza for YouTube since they will only be allowed to sell ads to Olympic sponsors and and if there was much online video viewing interest in the Olympics in these countries, someone would already have picked up the franchise. While all of this makes sense from a monetary view, doesn’t the national restriction of Internet rights seem a trifle wacky?

The national franchises do get around the language problem and provide enhanced coverage of contests of particular national interest, but I guess the bottom line is that there is no single online site that could (or wants to do) the whole worldwide job. On the other hand, bootleg Olympics videos have already started appearing on regular old garden variety YouTube.

Posted at 12:41 pm. Filed under Companies, Internet, Streaming video, Video Sharing, YouTube

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July 17, 2008

Amazon tries out video streaming store

Amazon logo got into the Internet video business in 2006 with its Unbox video download store which, after a rocky start, had seemed to be perking along although achieving minimal success. However, it seems that Amazon has been rethinking the whole market and has now decided to give sales of streaming video a try: will introduce a new online store of TV shows and movies on Thursday, called Amazon Video on Demand.

Customers of Amazon’s new store will be able to start watching any of 40,000 movies and television programs immediately after ordering them because they stream, just like programs on a cable video-on-demand service. That is different from most Internet video stores, like Apple iTunes and the original incarnation of Amazon’s video store, which require users to endure lengthy waits as video files are downloaded to their hard drives.

The video store will be accessible through the Sony Bravia Internet Video link, a $300 tower-shaped device that funnels Web video directly to Sony’s high-definition televisions. That is an awkward extra expense, for now. But future Bravias are expected to have this capability embedded in the television, making it even easier to gain access to the full catalog of past and present TV shows and movies, over the Internet, using a television remote control.

Mr. Carr said Amazon would pursue similar deals with other makers of TVs and Internet devices. “We can support both streaming and downloading,” he said. “Our goal is to continue to establish partnerships with all companies who have a connected device.”

Amazon Video on Demand will be accessible to a limited number of invited customers on Thursday before it opens more broadly to other users later this summer.

One interesting touch is that once an item is "purchased" it is stored in "Your Video Library" and can be watched repeatedly, even from different locations and devices.

Frequent readers will know my mantra that Internet video won’t take off until it is dead simple for the average consumer to use. Amazon Video on Demand certainly fits the bill, but the not-unexpected expense of the intermediate box and its relative rarity is certainly going to slow acceptance. Moreover, details on the technical requirements for the customer’s Internet connection have not been revealed. It will be interesting to see how fat a pipe you have to have to your home to play.

Posted at 12:23 pm. Filed under Amazon, Brands, Bravia, Companies, Internet, Sony, Streaming video, Video on Demand

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