TiVo Gets Significant Content Via Amazon Unbox

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TiVo announced its first significant mainstream content deal today. I have no details on the financial arrangement; whether or not TiVo is sharing in the revenue, this is the first positive news from the company in a very long time.

Series 2 and 3 TiVoes will get access to the Unbox content. The Series 2 will obviously have to get an MPEG-2 version, but it is not clear what the Series 3 will get. Apparently the formal roll out is down the road enough to include the Series 3 which will eventually get TiVoCast.

As I recall, the Amazon videos are 640×480 (nearly DVD quality) and some have DD5.1 sound. Not sure about whether they ever are anamorphic. The videos are WMV – essentially mpeg-4. According to the specs shown by Amazon, the videos are encoded at about 2.5mbps, which is great for mp4, but not so hot for mpeg-2. TiVo and Amazon claim the quality is better than TiVo BEST (5.5mbps @ 480×480) but that likely refers to resolution rather than overall quality.

According to Amazon, Unbox vids can be watched while downloading – after a brief delay. TiVoCast is not designed to allow such streamloading, and requires completion of the download before starting to watch. This is an odd design and breaks with the MRV/TTC&G way, which allows immediate viewing.

The content pricing at $1.99 for a TV episode and $3.99 for a movie rental, will keep this a very niche business, but until it is clear what you are really getting in the movie purchase, I’ll reserve judgement about movie pricing. When TV eps are $.25 this business will get interesting.

You can repeatedly download the videos to various devices (PCs, TiVoes, mobile players), but at the same time, not being able to just transfer videos via TiVo’s MRV or TTG is a waste of Internet bandwidth, and probably slower. I guess the “problem” of bandwidth costs has been solved by Amazon.  😉 From TiVo’s point of view, I expect Amazon is paying all the freight here and the TiVo box is just a receiver, leaving TiVo, Inc. with no costs. Referring back to the earlier comment about revenue sharing, it is just as likely that TiVo gets nothing from this, but gets a boost to the value of its service fee.

The bottom line is this is one a the biggest days in TiVo’s history. Good luck.

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4 Responses to “TiVo Gets Significant Content Via Amazon Unbox”

  1. MegaZone Says:

    When they say the quality is better, I expect they mean the final visual quality. And remember that encoding on the TiVo is single-pass, real-time encoding. If Amazon uses a professional multi-pass encoder for the downloadable MPEG-2 content, it can have both a higher image quality *and* a lower bitrate than the on-box encoding. Just as with DVDs – you’ll find DVDs with a lower bitrate than a TiVo at Best, but the DVD still looks better.

  2. HDTiVo Says:

    MZ:

    What I think is that the ultimate MP2 versions for the Series 2 will be transcoded from WMV at a higher bit rate (say 3000-3500kbps) and the numbers for download time will adjust accordingly.

  3. HDTiVo Says:

    Turns out I was “right.” They’ve upped the bit rate to 2800kbps from 2500 for these TiVo MPEG2 downloads…

    More interesting details on Unbox w/ TiVo later tonight.

    Plus some really unhappy financial analysis…

  4. Escape Unbox Pergatory « HDTiVo Blog Says:

    […] TiVo the bit rate has been upped to 2800 from 2500, but all the videos so far are MPEG2 4×3 (Letterboxed if Widescreen – no Anamorphic to date.) […]

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