With all of the online video services now offering much of the same (sometimes lousy) content, the new differentiating factor seems to be high definition quality. Microsoft has been there for a while (with videos over Xbox Live), as has Apple (over the Apple TV), and now Amazon is joining the gang.
The new HD option for Amazon Video On Demand is available starting today for some 500 movies and television shows. And the HD content will work with the set-top boxes Amazon streams to including the Roku and TiVo Series 3 devices. In addition, Amazon is launching On Demand on select Panasonic televisions today as well.
So Amazon is getting into the same HD streaming market that everyone else is. Unfortunately, there doesn’t seem to be any real differentiating factor from the other services. Sure, it’s nice for people who already use Amazon On Demand, but there is no real reason to switch to use it if you are already using one of the other services. Though, it is nice that the service is available on more devices than say, iTunes or Xbox Live.
But the prices, for example, are the same as iTunes ($3.99 to $4.99 to rent an HD movie — and $2.99 to buy an HD show). And the content looks to be pretty much the same as well. Amazon, in its press release, is touting the availability of the newly released Frost/Nixon. Well, I just watched it last night, in HD, on my Apple TV.
And it’s content that’s the main problem for all of these services. Apple has been expanding its HD offerings, but still only has a few hundred, several months after launching. Xbox Live’s content is the same way. Apple just rolled out the ability to buy (rather than rent) HD movies, and that is so far restricted to just a handful of movies. 500 HD titles is a good number for Amazon to launch with, but it’s a drop in the bucket of the 40,000 On Demand titles it offers.