Amazon Debuts Downloads7 Sep, 2006 By: Jessica Wolf
E-commerce giant Amazon.com, as expected, launched its digital movie downloading service Thursday, Sept. 7.
The site's service, dubbed Unbox, is stocked with content from movie studios 20th Century Fox, Paramount, Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, Universal Pictures, Warner Bros. Entertainment, Lionsgate and MGM Studios Inc.
TV Networks including A&E, Adult Swim, Animal Planet, The Biography Channel, Cartoon Network, CBS, Comedy Central, Discovery Channel, E! Entertainment Television, Fox, FX The History Channel, MTV, Nickelodeon, Nick at Nite, PBS TV Land and VH-1 also have released content to the e-tailer's new service.
“Now Amazon.com consumers can choose to get videos delivered to their doorstep from Amazon's DVD store, or choose Amazon Unbox and download DVD-quality picture movie or TV shows to their PC,” said Bill Carr, Amazon.com VP of digital media.
Unbox customers can purchase TV episodes for $1.99 each, and get most movies for between $7.99 and $14.99. Or they can rent the latest movies for $3.99.
Unbox kicks off with recent releases V for Vendetta, Inside Man, Failure to Launch, RV and Walk The Line alongside classics including Ben-Hur, The Shining, Chinatown and The Poseidon Adventure. Other films available for download include Akeelah and the Bee, Brokeback Mountain and Friends With Money.
Amazon was able to broker high-profile content programming thanks to its strong ties to the film market with regard to DVD sales.
“[This] is the first time one of our established customers has embraced digital distribution,” said Benjamin S. Feingold, worldwide president of Sony Pictures Home Entertainment. “Sony and Amazon share the goal of delivering outstanding entertainment to consumers whenever they want it, on whatever platform they choose to experience it and in the most efficient manner possible.“They have a vibrant DVD business and net-savvy customer because they reside on the Web.”
According to Amazon, Unbox boasts the highest picture quality of any Internet delivery model at DVD-quality downloads of content. The service is also enabled with “progressive download” that allows viewers to begin watching the film before it has completely downloaded to the computer — typically within five minutes of making the purchase, according to Amazon.
The downloads will play only on a PC with Windows XP or above. Customers will be required to install the Amazon Unbox Video Player software after their purchase. The movies will not play on Macintosh and cannot be burned to disc to play on a standard DVD player.
Feingold doesn't view that as much of an obstacle.
“I think it's unclear whether that's important to consumers — or whether they are more concerned with portability,” he said. Even so, he added, “hopefully there will be some amendment to the DVD charter to change that.”
Each download also comes with a second file that is compatible with lower-resolution viewing through Windows Media-compatible portable devices, such as the Creative Zen Vision.
Amazon customers will access their video purchases through a personalized Web page on the site, “Your Media Library.” The Library organizes all video purchases and allows users to download to more than one PC.
Unbox's catalog includes, just like its digital-download competitors Apple, AOL and Google, plenty of episodic programming as well.
Unbox has a few exclusives on this front, featuring the digital debut of the original “Star Trek” series and VH1 content.
The flexibility and quality of Amazon's Unbox is why VH1 elected to release content for the first time through the service, said Tom Calderone, EVP and general manager for VH1.
“Amazon is one of the most trusted brands in the digital space, with an excellent track record of building direct consumer relationships via the Internet,” said Thomas Lesinski, president of Paramount Pictures Digital Entertainment.