Amazon.com launches ‘Amazon Unbox’ DVD-quality video download service with TV shows and movies

Press release follows verbatim:

Amazon.com today announced the launch of Amazon Unbox(TM), a new digital video download service offering customers thousands of television shows, movies and other video content from more than 30 studio and network partners from Hollywood and around the world. Unbox is the only video download service to offer DVD-quality picture. In addition, Unbox RemoteLoad(TM) technology allows customers to buy from one PC (such as an office computer) and download to another (such as a home computer). Customers can visit http://www.amazon.com/unbox to try the Unbox service with a free TV show.

Unbox offers triple the video quality of the leading commercial Internet video services, delivering content encoded at 2,500 kilobits per second using the ultra-efficient VC-1 Advanced Profile codec. At no additional charge, Unbox also automatically includes a second file optimized for playback on any Windows Media-compatible portable device. In addition, Unbox uses progressive download, eliminating the need to wait for the entire video to download before watching. This means the typical cable broadband customer can start watching any Unbox TV show or movie within five minutes of ordering.

“Amazon Unbox offers TV and movie enthusiasts a fast, convenient way to watch thousands of their favorite videos from around the world,” said Bill Carr, Amazon.com’s vice president of digital media. “Now Amazon.com customers can choose to get videos delivered to their doorstep from Amazon’s DVD store or choose Amazon Unbox and download DVD-quality picture movies or television shows to their PC.”

Unbox RemoteLoad technology offers customers the convenience of shopping for Unbox videos on Amazon.com from any Internet-connected PC — like their PC at the office — and download their videos to that PC or any other connected PC — like their PC at home. Plus, customers get the added flexibility of taking their video collection on the go using any Windows Media video-compatible portable device, including the popular Creative Zen Vision:M.

“Amazon has built the ultimate solution for anyone who has ever had a friend or coworker tell them that they missed a great TV show last night,” said Carr. “Now customers can visit Amazon.com while at work and download DVD-quality TV shows and movies to their PC at home or wherever it is most convenient for them to watch.”

Amazon Unbox customers will be able to access their videos in the Amazon Your Media Library, a personalized Web page that indexes and organizes their media purchases from Amazon.com, including books, CDs, DVDs and Unbox Videos. Your Media Library provides each Unbox customer a place to keep track of their Unbox video purchases, and even download them to an additional PC.

Amazon Unbox customers can download episodes of their favorite television shows that aired as recently as last night or favorites from decades past. Unbox offers current hits from top networks like CBS with “CSI” and “Numb3rs” and FOX with “24” and “Prison Break” as well as classics like “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” “Firefly” and “Star Trek.” Unbox also offers a broad selection of popular shows from cable networks such as A&E, Cartoon Network, Discovery Channel, FX and several channels from MTV Networks, including Comedy Central, Nickelodeon, MTV and VH1. From September 14th through September 27th, all of the final, cliffhanger episodes from last season’s “CSI,” “CSI: Miami” and “CSI:NY” will be available for $0.01 to celebrate CSI Week and the launch of the season for all three “CSI” series.

Several television series and films will make their digital download debut with Amazon Unbox, including all 79 episodes of the original “Star Trek” series (plus the pre-Shatner original pilot), many anime series including “Mobile Suit Gundam SEED.” HGTV, FINE LIVING TV Network and VH1 are three networks making their digital download debut, offering titles such as “Design on a Dime,” “America’s Dream 18” and “Breaking Bonaduce,” respectively.

Movies available on Unbox include new releases such as “V for Vendetta,” “Inside Man,” “Failure to Launch,” “RV” and “Walk the Line” as well as numerous classics like “Ben Hur,” “Chinatown” and “Poseidon Adventure” from top studios including 20th Century Fox, Paramount Pictures, Sony Pictures, Universal Pictures, Warner Bros. Entertainment and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios, Inc. Unbox will also have independent films from studios such as Focus Features, Fox Searchlight and Lionsgate, including “Akeelah and the Bee,” “Brokeback Mountain” and “Friends With Money.”

Amazon Unbox also offers a broad selection of international television shows and films from the UK, Korea, Hong Kong and Japan. These include the epic Korean period drama “The Immortal Admiral Yi Sun-shin”; the popular BBC comedy “Coupling”; Hong Kong’s “Hand of Death,” directed by John Woo starring Jackie Chan; and Japan’s “Escaflowne.”

Unbox customers can purchase television series episodes for $1.99 per episode, purchase most movies for between $7.99 and $14.99, or rent the latest movies for $3.99. To learn more about Amazon Unbox and to download your first television show free of charge, visit http://www.amazon.com/unbox.

Participating Television Networks

A&E, Adult Swim, Animal Planet, BBC, The Biography Channel, Cartoon Network, CBS, Comedy Central, Discovery Channel, Discovery Health Channel, Discovery Kids, E! Entertainment Television, FINE LIVING TV Network, FOX, Fuel TV, FX, HGTV, The History Channel, KBS (Korean Broadcast System), Logo, MTV, Nickelodeon, Nick at Nite, The N, PBS, Speed, Spike, Travel Channel, TV Land and VH1.

Participating Movie Studios

20th Century Fox, Paramount, Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, Universal Pictures, Warner Bros. Entertainment, Lionsgate and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios, Inc.

Unbox Partner Quotes

CBS

“With its broad and extensive user base, impressive marketing capabilities and the Unbox technology, Amazon.com is uniquely positioned as a programming platform in the online world, and we’re excited to be one of their charter content providers,” said Larry Kramer, President, CBS Digital Media. “The site is a perfect vehicle to further extend the reach of our Network brand and create more opportunities for audiences to discover current and classic CBS programming.”

Fox Entertainment Group

“We expect the convenience of Amazon’s Unbox to be a catalyst in expanding the reach of our digital offerings,” said Peter Levinsohn, President, Fox Digital Media. “Amazon has made a name for itself as having the biggest selection of physical goods online. We are happy to be a part of its effort to realize this same goal in digital content.”

MTV Networks

“VH1 has chosen Amazon Unbox for our download-to-own premiere of select shows because it offers viewers a flexible and high-quality way to enjoy their favorite programs — the very qualities our 30-something viewers find important,” said Tom Calderone, executive vice president and general manager, VH1. “We are excited to join the other MTV Networks’ brands in this launch, and to extend VH1’s hit shows to yet another platform.”

Paramount

“Amazon is one of the great trusted brands in the digital space with an excellent track record of building direct consumer relationships via the Internet,” said Thomas Lesinski, President, Paramount Pictures Digital Entertainment. “We are very excited about Amazon’s new Unbox service, which will provide consumers with a convenient high-quality option for downloading movies directly to their computers.”

Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

“This agreement with Amazon is very exciting for Sony Pictures Home Entertainment. It represents the first time one of our established customers has embraced digital distribution,” noted Benjamin S. Feingold, Worldwide President of Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, Digital Distribution and Acquisitions. “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, and we are delighted to partner with Amazon in fulfilling this mission.”

Universal Studios Home Entertainment (USHE)

“We are pleased to partner with Amazon on this exciting venture, which offers a convenient and flexible alternative for purchasing and enjoying Universal films,” said Craig Kornblau, President, Universal Studios Home Entertainment. “Consistent with NBC Universal’s strategy for ubiquitous content distribution, we are very excited to align with Amazon, a top-tier partner that is on the forefront of a unique new electronic sell-through technology to deliver our entertainment product: The Unbox Experience.”

Warner Bros. Entertainment

“Warner Bros. digital distribution strategy is to provide consumers with access to our world-class entertainment through as many platforms, devices and channels possible,” said Simon Kenny, President, Warner Bros. Digital Distribution. “Amazon is the Internet’s leading online retailer, and our customers are already comfortable acquiring entertainment from the website. Unbox is a natural extension of this and a good fit for Warner Bros.”

MGM

“Delivering on our strategy of distributing MGM movies and television series on robust new digital platforms, we are very pleased to be able to offer MGM programming to the launch of Amazon’s Unbox service and hope to include additional product in the weeks to come as the service undoubtedly flourishes,” said Douglas A. Lee, Executive Vice President, Worldwide Digital Media at MGM. “We are thrilled to extend our partnership with Amazon as it introduces its millions of users to its new service, and welcome them to receiving new ways of obtaining MGM’s extraordinary library of films and television,” he said.

MacDailyNews Note: From the FAQ: Can I make a DVD from my Amazon Unbox downloads? You can store your downloaded files on a DVD or other removable computer storage device for the purpose of backup in the same format as the original files. However, any DVDs that you burn with Amazon Unbox files will not be readable by a DVD player. You can only view the files using Amazon Unbox installed on the computer that originally received the downloads.

Amazon Unbox System Requirements follow:

Minimum System Requirements:

OPERATING SYSTEM: The Amazon Unbox video player application is only compatible with Microsoft Windows XP Home Edition Service Pack 2 (SP2), Windows XP Professional SP2, Windows XP Tablet PC Edition SP2, or Windows XP Media Center Edition 2005 Update Rollup 2. The Amazon Unbox video player is not compatible with Apple/Macintosh operating systems.
COMPUTER HARDWARE: A PC with a 1.5-gigahertz (GHz) processor or faster, at least 512MB of memory, and a DirectX 9.0 complaint Video (64 MB Memory) and Sound Card.
INTERNET CONNECTION: Broadband internet connection capable of 800 kbps sustained transfer speeds.

Recommended System Specifications
COMPUTER HARDWARE: A PC with a 2.4-gigahertz (GHz) processor or faster, at least 1024MB of memory, and a DirectX 9.0 complaint Video (128 MB Memory) and a Multi Channel 5.1 Capable Sound Card.
INTERNET CONNECTION: Broadband internet connection capable of 1.5+ mbps of sustained transfer speeds.

MacDailyNews Take: “The popular Creative Zen Vision:M?” Yeah, right. Please define “popular,” Amazon. Come on, please, just for laughs? Fact: the Creative Zen Vision:M is about as “popular” as a case of the crabs (and we’re not talking about the online game).

Yet another Windows-only also-ran? Tsk, tsk. Not very smart to ignore the computer users with the most disposable income, Amazon.

Oh well, that’s okay, we can wait to spend our money until Tuesday. wink

Compared to iTunes, this and other online media services look and feel like “rush jobs” to us. You can almost hear the Amazon execs screaming at their web coders late last night, “Rush, Jobs is launching in 5 days!!!” It’s not good when the press release is better organized than the website.

Addendum: As we wrote on August 29th, “Apple’s iTunes serves both Mac and Windows customers, as does Apple’s iPod. Obviously, all of these [other] services feel they need to use Microsoft’s DRM. Why they make this decision is another question, as using Microsoft’s DRM has proven to be a death sentence for many services for years now… Boil it all down and the basic question still remains: why can’t Microsoft make a DRM that’s Mac compatible? What exactly is the problem, Redmond?”

[UPDATE: 11:58pm EDT: Added to “Take.”]

Related MacDailyNews article:
It’s Showtime: Apple invites media to special event in San Francisco on September 12th – September 05, 2006

86 Comments

  1. what in the hell is this supposed to mean?

    http://www.amazon.com/gp/help/customer/display.html/103-9655067-2732602?ie=UTF8&nodeId=3748

    Can I use Amazon Unbox on my Macintosh or iPod?

    No. Apple Computer Inc. has exclusive rights to the hardware and software that would make this possible. Because of these restrictions, we are unable to make Amazon Unbox compatible with these products. While it is possible to run one of the approved operating systems on computers made by Apple, we cannot guarantee the performace of Amazon Unbox on these systems.

    ????????

    What in the hell are we doing to stop them from making software to play these movies back on a Mac? nothing.

    Its Microsoft that is preventing a version of Windows Media Player from working on Mac OS X.

  2. While some may not be impressed, this appears to be a pretty well thought-out approach. It will make some money, but hopefully, the iPod ecosystem has become so established that it will not gain traction. Tuesday is Showtime, for sure.

    Has anyone made mention of the Burst.com stuff lately? Is it resolved? Is it related to Tuesday?

  3. I’d like to think I’m as gung-ho Apple as the next guy, but that’s a pretty impressive list of partners.

    The main advantage that the iTunes music store had was broad industry acceptance. The movie store doesn’t seem to share that advantage.

    If apple does win this round, it will be after tough struggle. This round isn’t a gimme.

  4. Funny
    1.Best selling destop computer on Amazon is iMac
    2.Best selling laptop computer on Amazon is Mac Book
    3.Best selling MP3 Player on Amazon is iPod

    Now they sell movie that unable played on their best selling

    what they expect…

  5. Ummm…
    Maybe you can start watching in 5 min but you cannot keep watching to the end of the show without a download interruption.
    7 hours to download a 2 hour movie at (read ‘typical’) 750 internet download speeds?
    I don’t think that is going to go anywhere quickly.
    A 1 hour TV show in 3 hours and 40 min….

    If your internet speed is faster, this becomes less of an issue but for most folks in the US, it’s gonna take far far longer to download the show than to watch it. Meaning you cannot watch and download at the same time.

    MW= “waiting” . (How do they DO that?!!)

  6. Did I miss what you’re allowed to do with it? I didn’t see anything explaining whether you can burn your new movie to DVD, for instance.

    This makes me wonder if a side announcement next week will be that the TV shows you get through iTMS will now be DVD quality. I hope so.

  7. All I hope is that this makes Apple up the resolution on the existing TV shows, and obviously on the movies to download. If they offer it at the same crappy resolution (looks great on an iPod, but on my 15″ PB, it doesn’t look so great.

    *crossed fingers*

    Come on Apple, stun us…

    mw: So let it be written, so let it be done.

  8. I guess Amazon hasn’t checked their top selling desktop and laptop computer sales charts for the last several years.

    Way to go Amazon, just shit all over your Mac buying customers.

    Frickin’ Windoze only CRAP.

    Lame.

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