As you already know, Amazon is an online retailer that sells books, DVDs, music, games, apparel, and other merchandise. However, what you may not know is that Amazon offers a video streaming service as well. It is called Amazon Instant Video (formerly Amazon VOD) and it is an Internet video on demand service, only available in the United States, which offers television shows and films for rental and purchase. You can watch Amazon Instant Video content on a big screen courtesy of a number of special TVs, Blu-ray players, DVRs, and set top boxes that come with the software installed.
In mid August 2011 Amazon announced that it now has 100,000 movies and television shows available to purchase or rent through its Amazon Video On Demand service. Of those, 9,000 are available to stream at no extra charge through its Amazon Prime membership program. Amazon Prime costs $79 per year and entitles the subscriber to free two-day shipping on most products. Start your one month free Amazon Prime trial today.
The Amazon Instant Video Division has been busy in recent months, cutting licensing deals with networks and studios, to increase its streaming content and to better compete with Hulu and Netflix. There are subtle differences between each of the major movie streaming and download services. Hulu focus on recent TV shows, Netflix provides the largest library of movies (with newer content being the main issue), and Amazon seems to fits somewhere in the middle with a mixture of new movies and TV shows. See Amazon’s new releases list
- Pros – Reasonable prices, with a ton of content. High quality HD video (when available).Quick downloads, and Amazon Prime members get commercial-free streaming with select content.
- Cons – Not all content is available in HD. The video library is smaller than competing services. Some content can’t be viewed for a specific time due to licensing restrictions.
- Bottom Line – Amazon Instant Video has reasonable prices and a wide variety of programming. If you use Amazon to purchase a lot of merchandise, the Prime service now combines free shipping with free video streaming, which is an added bonus to an already great program.
Streaming Movies from Amazon Video On Demand
Amazon provides a few different ways to explore its library of content. Either you can search for a program, or you can use product categories based on genre, release date, channel, and more. Clicking a movie or TV show link displays the rating, runtime, release date, and other pertinent information. TV shows allow you to watch program snippets, and movies let you watch trailers – both are available in full-screen.
TV shows range from 99 cents to $2.99 depending on release date and standard vs. high definition. If you are interested in an entire season, you can purchase it outright, or by a TV Pass. TV Passes grant access to current TV seasons with videos posting shortly after they have aired—often at a discounted price. Amazon TV Passes are only valid for the currently-running television season.
Amazon Instant Video limits you to just one viewing method for rented videos (which are typically priced at $2.99 or $3.99): watch now, watch later, or download for offline viewing. Once you choose a viewing method, you are unable to transfer that rented video to another device for viewing. Rented videos will expire within the time frame advertised at the time of purchase—typically within 24 or 48 hours of firing it up. You have 30 days to begin watching before the rental expires.
Purchasing or renting a video is as simple as clicking the Buy button and selecting a credit/debit card that you have saved to your Amazon account. Purchased videos can be streamed to your browser, or downloaded to a PC, TiVo, and two portable devices. Downloaded video doesn’t include advertisements. Click here to see Amazon Instant Video’s Best Sellers.
The Standard definition streaming video quality is what you’d expect; passable when viewed on a relatively small screen and a problematic when viewed on a large screen. That said, the streaming HD video is spectacular. Amazon definitely has a leg up on Netflix in this regard.
Thanks to the wide availability of Amazon Instant, Prime streaming titles are available on Mac or PC computers and on nearly 200 Internet-connected TVs and set-top boxes including Blu-ray players. And recently avaliable on the Playstation 3! To determine if your device is Amazon Video friendly check out their Compatible Devices list.
Amazon.com describes Amazon Video on Demand content as DVD quality. The average video bitrate of an Amazon video download equals 2500 kbit/s; which means that a 2 hour movie consumes roughly 2 GB of storage space. 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. Amazon asserts that for customers with an internet connection of 3 Mbit/s or more, any Amazon Movie file will start playing within 5 minutes. Concerning software requirements – users of Amazon Streaming only need only a web browser with the Adobe Flash plug-in.
If you are trying to decide between a gaming console, set-top box, DVD player or Smart TV check out the full list of Amazon Instant Video Ready TVs and Devices. Click here if you have questions about a specific device, to register, or to learn how to connect a device to the internet.