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Amazon Bows VOD Service

By Erik Gruenwedel | Posted: 17 Jul 2008

Amazon.com July 17 reportedly began beta testing a proprietary video-on-demand service that gives consumers access to about 40,000 movies and TV shows for streaming and download.

Titles and pricing were not immediately available.

The service, which includes most major studio fare with the exception of The Walt Disney Co., whose programming is earmarked for Apple's iTunes, underscored a heady week for digital distribution of entertainment.

Netflix and Microsoft July 14 confirmed long anticipated scuttlebutt the online DVD rental pioneer would begin streaming movie and TV content via the Xbox 360, and Sony Corp. announced a digital movie and TV service through the Playstation 3. Separately, Lionsgate July 16 said it would increase availability of free clips of its feature films to third parties on YouTube.

Amazon also inked a deal with Sony Electronics that would connect the VOD service to Sony's line of Bravia high-definition televisions via a proprietary $300 wireless Internet video link.

The VOD deal appears to circumvent Amazon's Unbox download service, which reportedly has generated minor traction among consumers due to its special software requirements and limited availability beyond the PC.

Wireless connectivity between the TV and the Internet was a consistent forward-looking theme in January at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. Many experts say consumer electronics manufacturers are on the verge of bridging the formidable gap between the TV and Web.

“Creating this on-demand available-everywhere access to premium content is going to be very attractive to consumers,” said Robert Jacobs, senior manager at Sony Electronics, as reported by the New York Times.

Analysts say the news may put pressure on Blockbuster Inc. to ready previously announced plans to re-launch download movie service Movielink. The Dallas-based rental company has said it intended to incorporate the service into a revamped Web site, among other venues.

Edward Woo, media analyst with Wedbush Morgan Securities in Los Angeles, said he had expected Blockbuster to make an announcement during the second quarter. The recent developments, he said, could expedite matters.

“It's now past the second quarter, so maybe soon,” Woo said.

A Blockbuster representative was not immediately available for comment.

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