Amazon's IMDB Finally Adds Video Content. I'll Give It Three Stars

The Internet Movie Database (IMDB), a massive, extremely popular website detailing all aspects of many movies and television shows, has finally added what the site has curiously been missing all along: video footage of full-length movies and TV shows.

The Amazon-owned site will now offer 6,000 movies and TV shows free of charge from Hulu, CBS, Sony Pictures Television, and hundreds of independent filmmakers. The content will rotate (much as it does on Hulu), depending on the content-owners’ wishes. IMDB will host and stream some of the video itself, but appears to be using embeddable players from Hulu and CBS where possible.

Unfortunately, the site’s implementation of video leaves something to be desired – it feels as if IMDB doesn’t really want to be a destination site for video content, and that this was just tacked on. It’s apparently impossible to browse through a list of available content – the site instead tells you to search for the shows you like one by one (there is a featured list, but it only displays a fraction of the content available).

The site’s interface is also a letdown when it comes to sorting through items with multiple pieces of content, like a television show. After visiting the webpage for Arrested Development (easily one of the best shows in recent memory), I found that episodes were listed out of order with poor descriptions.

And figuring out what you can actually watch will likely confuse many first time visitors. After browsing to the webpage for “Superman”, I was presented with a greyed-out “Watch It” button, which was accompanied by a link to Amazon’s Video On Demand service. Unsure of why I couldn’t click “Watch It”, I promptly looked to see if I was missing a codec or needed to sign into the site. Turns out this is just a bad design choice on IMDB’s part – if you can watch a video the button will be gold, you can’t watch it if it’s grey (why not just say “You can’t watch this here”?).

IMDB is one of my favorite sites on the web – I’ve spent countless hours browsing through movie trivia, forums, and top 100 lists. It’s nice to see that the database is finally incorporating video, but it could be doing so much more than links to Hulu embeds. Instead of including video as footnotes to database pages, the IMDB should create a consumer-friendly content portal, leveraging its database to serve as a powerful recommendation and review engine.