After giving an inadvertent sneak preview in May, Amazon (AMZN) launched a beta version of its new on-demand film-and-TV store today called “Amazon Video on Demand.” The service, in limited beta, offers 40,000 movies and TV shows for immediate viewing on the Web.
Also announced: a partnership with Sony Electronics (SNE) to put the service on Sony TV sets. Initially, the set-up requires a $300 device called the Sony Bravia Internet Video Link, but ultimately Sony Bravia TVs will have the functionality built-in.
Amazon launches the service with deals with all the major film studios and TV networks except for Disney/ABC (DIS), which has “close ties” to iTunes (AAPL) — that is, its single largest shareholder is Steve Jobs. Despite that hole in the catalogue, its selection is quite a bit bigger than Netflix’s meager on-demand selection. Netflix struck a deal to distribute its movies through Microsoft’s xBox earlier this week.
Amazon is allowing users to stream both rented and purchased TV and film; Amazon will store a record of purchases in a section called “Your Video Library” so they can be watched again–even from different devices. The service could appeal to a wider group of consumers than Amazon’s year-and-a-half-old Unbox download service, because it requires no software download and will work on a Mac, and presumably isn’t as clunky and unpleasant as its predecessor.
As the NYT’s Brad Stone points out, this won’t be a money-maker for Amazon, at least not anytime soon. Amazon is footing some hefty licence fees to the studios to get the service off the ground, not to mention the bandwidth to deliver video reliably.
See Also: Netflix’s Next Step: More Streaming Movies
Should Amazon Buy Borders? No. But An Amazon Retail Presence Actually Wouldn’t Be Absurd
No, Amazon’s New Streaming Service Is Not Derailing Amazon.com
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