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Roku Adds Amazon Video on Demand

Posted by: Cliff Edwards on March 03, 2009

Roku’s Video Player and Amazon’s Video on Demand service hope to make beautiful pictures together.

For those who didn’t think there was enough goodness in Roku’s $99 streaming video box, which offered a selection of mostly back-catalog titles from video subscription service Netflix, the company just updated its box to add some 40,000 movies and TV shows from Amazon.

Unlike Netflix, where you have to use your computer to populate the list of streaming titles you see on the Roku player, the Amazon service loads all the titles up in easy to browse categories. Like Netflix, you do need to use the computer at least once, to associate the box with your Amazon account and assign a credit card number for rentals and purchases.

I tried out the beta service over the weekend and found it still wasn’t as easy as I would have liked. There wasn’t a way to search quickly for a specific title. And standard-definition content didn’t look particularly great on a high-definition TV. Roku says the box is capable of streaming 1080i content when it is available (though the caveat is that you’d need an extremely fast Internet connection to do so).

And since the box is capable of streaming only, Amazon stores all your purchases on its servers. That means you’ll always need an Internet connection to retrieve video you paid for.

Despite it’s flaws, the Roku player seems to be well on its way to eliminating altogether the need to watch TVs and movies the old way. With a couple of clicks of the remote, users now have access to an extensive back catalog of older titles and many new releases available on Amazon’s service.

A la carte pricing may be a bother to some, but ultimately the model could challenge cable and satellite TV’s ever-more expensive monthly subscriptions.

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Reader Comments

charles cook

March 5, 2009 06:32 AM

Can you advise me on the cost involved?
including the charge for viewing a film?
Thank You


March 5, 2009 07:15 AM

Ok let's do the math ... $8.95 for unlimited netflix movies streamed and 2 more recent movies a week mailed versus 9 Amazon movies a month @ 99 cents each ... hmmmm ... thinking ... thinking ... No thanks!

I have a roku, a pocorn hour, a linksys media extender, and a netgear eva8000 hd and the least used is the roku ...

Its in the second guest room because frankly I get a better experience from a media center add in of netflix than I do from the Roku's clunky interface.

The only thing that can save that box is Hulu.

Robert C. Rodriguez

March 5, 2009 08:36 PM

My Roku just updated minutes ago with the latest software that supports Amazon's Video on Demand, and setting it up was extremely easy.

I know a lot of people can't understand why anyone would want to pay Amazon as little as 99 cents to watch a movie/tv episode when they can either stream it through Netflix or rent the DVD through Netflix for one low monthly rate.

The problem is that Netflix doesn't release latest movies to their "Watch Now" section - whereas Amazon does. So if I have the option of paying a one time fee of anywhere from 99 cents to 5 dollars to rent a new release, I will!

I do wish that Hulu was available for the Roku.


March 6, 2009 12:23 PM

For the absolutely average, non-techie t.v. viewer, the roku box is a great way to go for video on demand, particularly since the Netflix videos are included in the subscription price. It's extremely easy to use and the quality is perfectly fine for those of us watching on regular ol' t.v. sets. I have recommended it to several friends who have all been happy with the Netflix capability. (It remains to be seen just how much renting I'll do via Amazon, since I just installed it last night.)


March 6, 2009 08:47 PM

I got the Roku box for streaming Netflix movies, but I am looking forward to the variety of Amazon. As far as the picture quality, I have an excellent 42 inch plasma and I find the picture to be above acceptable. The Roku player is a bargain for what it has to offer.

Bob H

May 23, 2009 03:48 PM

The NETFLIX interface is easy to use, the Amzon website is clunky and not user friendly - and just what am I paying for if Amazon is holding the actual video, the right to view it until Amazon (ultimately) changes their pricing model?

Scott in Seattle

July 2, 2009 04:59 PM

Installed Roku last night. Very easy. All gadgets should install and work like this. HDMI signal and sound are good on a 65" HD TV. RWD and FFW take a very long time (> 1 minute) before the move restarts, but Pause-Play works very well. They totally jipped me on shipping at $20 for a small package though. You could easily put a Roku and the additional cable package in one of the USPS one-price boxes for under $10, so this is a significant hidden price increase. At a fair freight rate, Roku actually costs $110-115.

Lots of movies of different kinds available under my $8.99/month Netflix account, with medium bias towards older and very strong bias away from big-time new movies. Many more movies worth seeing than I could ever watch, but not necessarily many of those that I would actively look for. I am counting on a much wider assortment in the near future or I will not feel I got my money's worth and will be slamming Roku.

I do not see value in the Amazon offering. Prices for most movies are in the $3-6 range to either "rent" or "buy" and if I buy I don't get to actually hold a copy of the movie. Even TV series cost on the order of $1.50-$3 PER EPISODE, which would really add up over several seasons of something I would watch, like Battlestar Galactica. This is not competitive with many of the other available content sources, including even the most expensive Netflix options.

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BusinessWeek writers Peter Burrows, Cliff Edwards, Olga Kharif, Aaron Ricadela, Douglas MacMillan, and Spencer Ante dig behind the headlines to analyze what’s really happening throughout the world of technology. One of the first mainstream media tech blogs, Tech Beat covers everything from tech bellwethers like Apple, Google, and Intel and emerging new leaders such as Facebook to new technologies, trends, and controversies.



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