RealTime IT News

Amazon Finds Way to Video Downloads

Amazon.com is ready for its close-up.

Known more for books and merchandise, Amazon this week started offering movie and television downloads direct to subscribers' PCs and mobile devices.

Amazon Unbox promises DVD-quality downloads of popular television shows, which can be viewed within minutes after ordering online.

The company said the service delivers triple the video quality of competing commercial Internet video services by using an encoding technique that delivers content at a zippy 2,500 kilobits per second.

Videos can also be ordered on one PC and shown later on another for those who like to browse selections at work and then watch the latest flick at home.

This RemoteLoad capability is a first for the digital download industry, Sean Sundwall, Amazon spokesman, told internetnews.com.

"We have a great understanding of where our customers are shopping, and we know that a lot of them shop from work," he said.

Amazon is partnering with 36 studio and content providers, such as Universal Studios, Warner Brothers and MGM, to build a stockpile of material that ranges from movie classics to popular shows from the Discovery Channel and MTV Networks.

Unbox customers can buy television shows for $1.99 per episode and purchase movies for between $7.99 and $14.99. There are no subscription fees. They can also rent the latest movies for $3.99, said Sundwall.

The difference is the convenience factor, as well as the ability to zap content to two PC and your mobile devices for a single price, said Sundwall.

When subscribers order digital content, the download automatically includes a second file optimized for playback on any Windows Media-compatible portable device, he noted.

With Amazon Unbox, "they can hear from a friend about a movie or TV show they missed, go to their work laptop and order, and have it automatically downloaded to their home PC."

PC users may not be quite so ready for Amazon's primetime packages, however.

While more than half of all Internet users have watched or downloaded videos on their PCs, news clips and not movies are the preferred content du jour, according to a poll of TV and online video watchers conducted by the Associated Press and America Online.

Only about 7 percent of these people have actually paid to watch videos on their PCs, the research found.

Amazon discounts such reports, noting that its subscribers have expressed a strong interest in ordering and watching movies or the latest episode of "CSI."

"This service is not something we invented out of thin air," said Sundwall. "It's something that we started based on customer feedback and the desires that our customers have expressed to us."

"Our customers aren't download lovers or DVD lovers," he added. "They are movie lovers and they are TV lovers. Unbox is simply another choice and another way for them to consume the video content we know they love."

"It's hard to say how many people will rent versus buy," said Sundwall. "We provide both options, but there are far more titles available for purchase."