Buying or renting a movie in a box may turn into a quaint early-21st century notion. On Wednesday, Amazon.com launched "Unbox," a service that lets you purchase movies and TV programs from its online store that get delivered directly into your TV’s DVR - right where you can use them! Finally!!
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This functionality is the first user-chosen content delivery scheme to fully utilize available telecom and DVR technology to meet customers’ needs converging e-commerce, broadband Internet downloading, and home networking technologies. No hard media, DVD players, HD format wars.
Announced last month, "Amazon Unbox in TiVo" extends Amazon’s Unbox download service to more than 1.5M TiVo subscribers. Under an introductory offer, TiVo is offering $15 in free movie and TV show downloads to those who sign up. Television show episodes are $1.99, and most movies cost $9.99 to $14.99, which is more than the rental or download fee you might be used to. But the content is yours to keep, as if you bought the DVD. You can also download it to two portable devices.
Existing VoD offerings and download services such as CinemaNow, MovieLink, Vongo and others, rely on the PC to receive the content and control proper viewing and transfer. The DRM schemes used by these providers make it inconvenient to watch this content on anything but a PC, requiring technical savvy and extra equipment, such as a media PC. The content even disappears after you watch it, or after 30 days! Even online video stores like those of Wal-mart and Apple are geared toward computers and portable devices.
But you can watch the Amazon Unbox store purchases an unlimited number of times and keep it indefinitely, building your own video jukebox. Unfortunately, TiVo units don’t currently allow you to make an archive DVD backup, and they aren’t as easily and limitlessly expandable as other hard disk-based servers.
Many years ago, I recognized that the Teleflix.com business model would require the reluctant partnerships of many industry heavyweights to allow it to become a reality. This conclusion is supported by the recent pull back of Netflix from its business model. But now, analysts say that content companies may be embracing TiVo as both a potential partner and a distribution platform. But why now? Simplification.
Viewers are splitting their time between viewing traditional media, surfing the Internet and playing video games. And every day there is more content to watch from an exploding variety of Internet and broadcast sources. Amazon’s TiVo partnership takes downloads a step further making the whole process much simpler and putting the content where users want it - on their TV.
TiVo has scrambled to forge profitability through innovative offerings, partnerships and technology, compared to generic DVRs from cable and satellite broadcasters. The Amazon Unbox service provides a unique and differentiated service allowing it to put some space between the competitors. The move is probably one of TiVo best steps to date.