As expected, within days of each other, both Amazon and Apple announced their own movie download services. And while Amazon’s service currently has more movies from more companies than Apple, it was Steve Jobs and iTunes that grabbed the most press.
Right now Apple has a deal with only one Hollywood studio Disney mainly because Apple CEO Steve Jobs holds a seat on Disney’s board of directors. Amazon, on the other hand, has deals with seven studios. As you might guess, Disney is not one of the seven.
The deal between Apple and Disney gives Apple the right to sell movies made by the Mouse and its properties, including Pixar, Touchstone and Miramax, on iTunes. New releases are priced at $12.99 when pre-ordered, and sold for $14.99 afterward. Older titles sell for $9.99 each.
But there’s a lot of speculation that audiences might not want to watch feature films on screens as small as the video iPod’s. Sure, iPods are great for watching the previous night’s Leno or Letterman monologue while riding a commuter train, but do consumers really want to watch "Lord of The Rings" on credit card-size screens? Sure, with the right cables you can pipe iPod video content to the TV. But if there’s one thing iTunes has showed us it’s that consumers prefer simplicity something they can turn on and watch without having to figure out how to hook output "A" into input "B."
That’s why, along with the Disney / iTunes announcement, Apple introduced the iTV, a set-top box that enables users to wirelessly send digital content (including movies) from computer to TV. However, consumers will have to wait until early next year before the iTV is available. And it will cost them $299. Kind of makes those cheap cables seem a bit easier to use, doesn’t it?
Only days before Apple announced its deal with Disney, Amazon launched its own movie store, dubbed Amazon Unbox.
Of course, Amazon doesn’t have a deal with Disney. At least, not yet. But it does have deals with seven major studios Paramount, 20th Century Fox, Sony Pictures, Universal Studios,. Warner Bros, Lionsgate and Metro- Goldwyn-Mayer.
Along with movies, Amazon is also selling TV shows, including programs from CBS, Fox, MTV, Nickelodeon, PBS, BBC and Comedy Central. TV shows are priced at $1.99 per episode while most movies are priced anywhere between $7.99 to $14.99.
You can also rent movie downloads, which play for 30 days, for $3.99.
Movies and shows purchased from Amazon Unbox come in two files. One is for your computer while the second file is for a Windows Media-compatible portable digital player. The files can be burned onto a DVD, but the DVD will only play on the computer used to download the content, and not on a DVD player.
While Hollywood has cautiously moved into the download arena, most notably by selling files through download sites such as Movielink and CinemaNow, both Amazon and Apple deals mark the first time the film industry has licensed its content to existing online stores. And, while film fans have been slow on the uptake regarding downloadable movies, that’s expected to change as more films become available through more outlets.
Or, as Craig Kornblau, president of Universal Studios Home Entertainment said of Amazon’s new movie service: "We’re going to have extensive, ubiquitous distribution from a variety of e-tailers. There are a lot of companies we’re talking to."