Amazon Video on Demand

Amazon Video on Demand

Amazon Video on Demand (VOD) is an Internet video on demand service, only available in the United States, offered by which offers television shows and films for rental and purchase. The service became available on September 7, 2006 as Amazon Unbox. [ Amazon Press Release March 7, 2007] ] On September 4, 2008, the service was rebranded as "Amazon Video on Demand." The Unbox name still refers to the locally-installed player, which is now optional. [ Amazon Customers Can Now Instantly Watch Ad-Free Movies and TV Shows on Macs, PCs and Compatible Sony BRAVIA Televisions Starting Today on Amazon Video On Demand] ]


By default, VOD programs play in Flash Video in all web browsers with the Adobe Flash plugin installed. This feature was launched in public beta July 17, 2008 [ Amazon Plans an Online Store for Movies and TV Shows] ] and was released September 4, 2008.

Customers may also download videos to TiVo Series 2 and Series 3 DVRs, except those made for use with DirecTV (DirecTiVo). Sony BRAVIA TVs equipped with an Internet Video Link device can also use Amazon VOD directly through the TV's menu system.

The optional Amazon Unbox player lets users download higher-quality copies of videos. The Unbox player is compatible only with the Windows XP family of operating systems and Windows Vista. Downloaded films include a full-resolution video file and a lower-resolution copy for portable devices. The content can be viewed using the Amazon Unbox Video Player, Windows Media Player, a Windows Media Center Extender such as an Xbox 360, a PlaysForSure portable device. Downloaded videos may be burned to a DVD for storage purposes, but the resulting DVD will not play on a DVD player.

Video quality

The content is purported by to be of "DVD quality". The average video bit-rate of an Amazon Unbox download equals 2500 kbit/s; this means that a two hour movie consumes roughly two gigabytes (2 GB) of storage space. In comparison, a typical DVD averages 5600 kbit/s, which makes a 2-hour movie about 4.7 GB. However, Amazon uses the VC1 codec, a more modern codec than MPEG-2, which is used on DVDs. VC1 achieves a higher quality picture at a smaller file size.

The quality for the TiVo files is advertised as being 2800 kbit/s and as being "of equal or better quality than videos recorded at the Best Quality setting on a TiVo Series2 DVR." [ Amazon Unbox on TiVo] ]

Due to the large size of the files being downloaded, the service requires a broadband internet connection capable of sustaining transfer speeds of 800 kbit/s. A 2-hour movie may take 7 hours and 20 minutes to download using a 750 kbit/s DSL/cable connection or 1 hour and 50 minutes with a 3.0 Mbit/s DSL/cable connection. Amazon asserts that for customers with an internet connection of 3 Mbit/s or more, any Unbox file will start playing within 5 minutes. In November 2007, TiVo enabled "progressive download" for Unbox content so that users may watch downloaded files before the download is complete.


Users of the streaming video on demand service need only a web browser with the Adobe Flash plugin to stream videos.

For transfer to portable device, the service requires the installation of a client application which manages playback and the transfer of video to portable devices that bear the Microsoft PlaysForSure certification, such as the Creative Zen or a Portable Media Center.

For use with a TiVo DVR, no client application is needed. The user only needs a broadband enabled (and connected) Series2 or Series3 DVR. DirecTiVo DVRs are not supported.

Sony BRAVIA TVs require an Internet Video Link to play Amazon VOD videos. Some models come equipped with this device; for other DMeX-capable models, a separate device must be purchased and installed. [ Amazon Video on Demand - Sony Bravia] ]

Points of Differentiation

*RemoteLoad allows customers to download to any Unbox-registered PC or TiVo from any Internet-connected computer. For example, a user can purchase an Unbox video from a work computer and request that it be downloaded on a home computer or TiVo DVR. [ Amazon Unbox Video Frequently Asked Questions] ]
*Your Media Library allows people to delete most large video files from their local hard drive when finished and store them in Amazon's Media Library for later redownload. This allows people to download more movies than their hard drive could otherwise store, and it provides a backup in case of hard drive failure.
*Unbox on TiVo allows customers to send content directly to their DVR.
*As of March 26, 2008, Unbox offers over 5,000 movies to purchase [ List of Unbox movie downloads available for purchase] ] as does Vudu Inc., a competing service.Fact|date=March 2008 This compares with about 800 movies on the iTunes Store. [ List of iTunes movie downloads available for purchase] . Link requires iTunes to be installed.]
*Many Unbox videos are also available for rental for $.99 to $3.99. Rented movies must be viewed within the first 30 days after purchase and they may only be viewed within 24 hours of the first time the user presses Play.
*In addition to shows from mainstream networks (CBS, NBC and FOX), Unbox sells television series from the BBC, MTV, BRAVO and the Korean Broadcasting System (KBS). Unbox also sells more obscure television series such as "Giant Robo" (also known as "Johnny Sokko and His Flying Robot"), a 1960s Japanese television show popular in the US in the early 1970s.
*Beginning with the 2007–08 television season, Amazon Unbox became the exclusive provider of NBC content, replacing iTunes as the delivery mechanism for these shows. NBC Universal later signed a new distribution agreement with Apple starting with the 2008–09 season and started distributing some of its shows for free on Hulu.


In the first version of Unbox, a background service would launch itself upon system startup to call home and look for videos to download. This automatic behavior, which could not be disabled without uninstalling the Unbox application, drew negative reviews for its implicit permission to run arbitrary code as designated by personnel. Merritt, Tom. "My fight with Amazon Unbox." "Alpha: The CNET Blog", 8 September 2006. Accessed at [] on 7 April 2007.] In an upgrade released shortly after launch, thought to be a response to these criticisms,Ouchi, Monica Soto. "Amazon listens to Unbox beefs." "The Seattle Times", 27 September 2006. Accessed at [] on 7 April 2007.] Amazon made "launch on startup" optional, though disabling it also by necessity disables the RemoteLoad feature. When active, Unbox's background service periodically phones home to see if there are any new videos to download. This is confirmed in the video player's license agreement. Also, the program will attempt to contact the Amazon server upon uninstall.

Rented Unbox movies cannot be transferred to a portable device. They can only be viewed on the device to which they are downloaded.

Related Links

* [ Amazon Unbox Launch Press Release]
* [ Amazon Unbox: Frequently Asked Questions]
* [ unwraps its 'Unbox'] , CNET
* [,71751-0.html Amazon's Online Video Gambit] , Wired News
* [ Amazon Unbox On TiVo]


External links

Official Site

* [ Amazon Unbox]
* [ Amazon Unbox FAQ]
* [ Amazon Unbox Terms of Use]
* [ Amazon Unbox Blog]


* [ CNET Review] – CNET
* [ My fight with Amazon Unbox] – CNET
* [ Boing Boing review of the Unbox TOS] – Boing Boing
* [ Amazon Unbox - Terms Undermine Value] - September 20, 2006 MP3 Newswire article
* [,1697,2078466,00.asp Review of Unbox on ExtremeTech]
* [ TiVo goes live with Amazon Unbox partnership]

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