Amazon Instant Video
The service debuted on September 7, 2006, as Amazon Unbox. On September 4, 2008, the service was renamed to Amazon Video on Demand. The Unbox name still refers to the locally installed player (available for Microsoft Windows systems), which is now optional. On February 22, 2011, Amazon rebranded as Amazon Instant Video and added access to 5,000 movies and TV shows for Amazon Prime members. On September 4, 2012, Amazon signed a deal with pay-TV channel Epix to feature movies on their streaming service, in a move to rival their competitor Netflix. Additionally, in November 2013, Amazon premiered the comedies Alpha House and Betas, which are original series available exclusively online via the Prime Instant Video service. Amazon offered the first three episodes of both series at once for free, with each subsequent episode released weekly thereafter for Prime members.
Amazon Instant Video is available on numerous compatible devices. Users can 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, and Panasonic VIERA TVs equipped with Viera Cast can also use Amazon Instant Video directly through the TV's menu system. Amazon Instant Video is also available on streaming players such as Roku. Amazon Instant Video is also supported on a number of smart TVs and Blu-ray players such as recent Samsung and LG models, as well as consoles like the PlayStation 3, the Xbox 360 through Xbox Live, the Wii and Wii U, and mobile devices like the iPhone and iPad. As of 2013, however, there is no support for Android-based mobile devices, with the exception of the Kindle Fire line of tablets. Amazon Instant Video has an app for iOS devices and it is compatible with Apple TV via AirPlay.
The optional Amazon Unbox player lets users download high-quality copies of videos. The Unbox player is compatible only with Windows XP, Windows Vista, Windows 7, and Windows 8. Downloaded films include a full-resolution video file and can include 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. However, downloading HD versions of movies is not supported (except for HD TV shows); they are only available through streaming on Amazon Instant Video HD compatible devices.
Depending on the device, Amazon supports up to 1080p (HD) streaming with 5.1 Dolby Digital or Dolby Digital Plus audio. For titles that are only available for purchase (and not included in a customer's Amazon Prime subscription), the HD option is often offered at an additional price.
Amazon.com describes the content as "DVD quality." The average video bitrate of an Amazon Unbox download equals 2,500 kbit/s; this means that a two hour movie consumes roughly two gigabytes (2 GB) of storage space. In comparison, a typical DVD averages 5,600 kbit/s, which makes a 2-hour movie about 4.7 GB. However, Amazon uses the VC-1 codec, a more modern codec than MPEG-2, which is used on DVDs. VC-1 achieves a higher quality picture at a smaller file size.
The quality for the TiVo files is advertised as being 2,800 kbit/s and as being "of equal or better quality than videos recorded at the Best Quality setting on a TiVo Series2 DVR."
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 five minutes. In November 2007, TiVo enabled "progressive download" for Unbox content so that users may watch downloaded files before the download is complete.
While the download versions utilize VC-1 in a WMV container, the format used for streaming HD (both purchased content and Amazon Prime unlimited streaming) is AVC with an average video bitrate of 2,500 kbit/s. On a computer, this encode is streamed in a FLV container.
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.
Use on various TVs, Blu-ray players and consoles (including Panasonic, LG, Samsung and other TVs) requires a broadband connection. Use on Xbox Live the user needs broadband connected Xbox with Xbox Live Gold membership.
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.
- 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 more than 5,000 movies to purchase This compares with about 800 movies on the iTunes Store.
- Many titles are also available for rental or purchase, often hours after broadcast on TV. This contrasts with subscription-only based providers like Netflix, where customers may need to wait several months or more to view content.
- In addition to shows from mainstream networks (CBS, NBC and FOX), Amazon Instant Video sells television series from the BBC, MTV, BRAVO and the Korean Broadcasting System (KBS). Amazon 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 U.S. in the early 1970s.
- Beginning with the 2007–08 television season, Amazon Instant Video 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 contact the Amazon server to see if there were any new videos to download. Also, the program would attempt to contact the Amazon server when uninstalled. 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 Amazon.com personnel. This is also confirmed in the video player's license agreement. In an upgrade released shortly after launch, thought to be a response to these criticisms, Amazon made "launch on startup" optional, though disabling it necessarily disables the RemoteLoad feature, and makes the program impossible to run in non-administrator computer accounts.
Rented Unbox movies cannot be transferred to a portable device. They can only be viewed on the device to which they are downloaded.
TV Passes purchased in the middle of a television season require the purchase of all previous episodes of the current season. Further, TV Passes are restricted to a single season, and the user isn't notified when new seasons become available, so the user must find out through other means when the new season starts and then manually order it.
- Amazon Press Release March 7, 2007
- Amazon Press Release September 3, 2008
- Watch On the Go with the Free Unbox Video Player
- By Christina Warren2011-02-22 12:45:05 UTC (2011-02-22). "HANDS ON: Amazon's Prime Instant Video". Mashable.com. Retrieved 2013-11-27.
- Amazon Press Release February 22, 2011
- Bloomberg News. September 4, 2012. "Amazon Adds Movies to Streaming Service in New Challenge to Netflix." http://adage.com/article/media/amazon-adds-epix-movies-streaming-service/237003/
- "Amazon's Original Series "Alpha House" Debuts Friday". The Motley Fool. Retrieved 25 November 2013.
- "Amazon Instant Video on Your Panasonic Device". Amazon.com. Retrieved 2013-04-20.
- Roku Channel Store
- Jack Buser (April 3, 2012). "PS3: The First Console to Offer Amazon Instant Video". PlayStation.blog. Retrieved June 15, 2012.
- Lardinois, Frederic. May 29, 2012. "Amazon Instant Video Comes to Xbox 360." http://techcrunch.com/2012/05/29/amazon-instant-video-comes-to-xbox-360/
- Netflix, Redbox and More: What You Need to Know
- "Amazon’s Instant Video iOS app now lets you stream to Apple TV via AirPlay — Tech News and Analysis". Gigaom.com. 2013-09-17. Retrieved 2013-11-27.
- About Amazon Unbox Video Player
- Amazon Instant Video Compatible Devices
- Amazon Unbox on TiVo
- Amazon Plans an Online Store for Movies and TV Shows
- Amazon Unbox Video Frequently Asked Questions
- List of Unbox movie downloads available for purchase
- List of iTunes movie downloads available for purchase. Link requires iTunes to be installed.
- Merritt, Tom. "My fight with Amazon Unbox." Alpha: The CNET Blog, September 8, 2006. Accessed at  on April 7, 2007.
- Ouchi, Monica Soto. "Amazon listens to Unbox beefs." The Seattle Times, September 27, 2006. Accessed at  on April 7, 2007.