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Amazon Latest in Video Download Arena?

A chorus of companies is singing the praises of digital-video delivery these days, and Amazon.com is the latest to negotiate with Hollywood to offer movie downloads, the New York Times reported today.

Amazon spokesperson Patty Smith refused to comment on reports the e-tailer is discussing a video download service with Warner Brothers, Paramount Pictures and Universal Studios.

The service reportedly would permit television shows and movies to be downloaded and burned to CD. Such a service would complement the Web site's already-existing DVD sales.

Amazon would compete with Apple's iTunes, which earlier this week announced its own video download agreement with Viacom's Comedy Central Network.

Until recently, "studios haven't put their full weight behind" their own video download efforts, such as MovieLink and CinemaNow, according to Todd Chanko, media analyst at JupiterResearch. But that's changing.

"It's cheaper for Hollywood to deliver videos digitally than ship DVDs," Chanko told internetnews.com. (JupiterResearch and internetnews.com are owned by Jupitermedia.)

Both a change in thinking and improved technology have combined to allow studios and consumers to come together, according to analysts.

The increased adoption of broadband is the biggest single reason for the avalanche of video services, according to Van Baker, a digital living room analyst at Gartner.

Software such as Windows Media Player has also improved the playback quality of downloaded video, added Baker.

Synchronization between the PC and mobile devices is another major technological hurdle, which enabled the spread of video. The outcome: video download agreements such as the one between Apple iTunes and Disney, noted Baker.

"Only recently have you gotten content off the computer and to a handheld device," he told internetnews.com.

While increased adoption of broadband and advances in encryption technology make video downloads more manageable, it's not the impetus behind the Amazon announcement, according to Chanko, adding that iTunes and the Apple iPod have caused studios to acknowledge the need to distribute films and video across multiple platforms.

Apple's Multi-Pass subscription service gives consumers the chance to pay $22 and download a month of Comedy Central programming, including the popular "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart."

ITunes customers can also download Comedy Network shows for $1.99 each. Apple has inked a deal with Disney to offer ABC hit shows "Desperate Housewives" and "Lost" as iTunes downloads.

Many issues remain unresolved, said Baker, including digital rights management. And although Chanko said Amazon offers Hollywood enormous brand recognition, even for the giant e-tailer, success in video downloads "is not a slam-dunk," said Baker.