December 01, 2008

Amazon and TiVo Somehow Make 99 Cent Films Seem Too Expensive

All day today, I was looking forward to two closely-related things: sitting down at home to watch an inexpensive movie with my wife, and then rolling out a post saying Apple had missed out on revenue from the Gray household, as a new expanded relationship with TiVo and Amazon Unbox had us renting two films from that service instead of iTunes. But after two hours of watching substandard video with jagged starts and stops and visual artifacts throughout the film, it just reinforced our decision to go with the brand that represents quality. Despite the fact we only paid $.99 each for two movies, I feel I didn't get my money's wroth.

Sometime over the Thanksgiving holiday, TiVo updated its service, moving a new feature front and center on members' sets - that of "Video on Demand and YouTube."

The offering, which had been less organized previously, highlights "Amazon Video On Demand", saying "Rent or buy over 30,000 TV and movie titles from Amazon Video On Demand, and have them delivered directly to your Now Playing List."

Top movie rentals, including "Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull", "Get Smart", and others were marked down to 99 cents on the weekend, down from their usual price of $3.99. We hastily grabbed both titles yesterday, and figured we'd gotten a great deal. But it's a good thing for Amazon we hadn't paid full price, because the result was a mess. In stark contrast to Apple's HD-quality videos from iTunes, which regularly cost $3.99 or $4.99, we were subjected to video that stumbled and jerked, and had square or rectangle flashes at all parts of the screen throughout the film.

At no point during the two hour Indiana Jones movie did things clear up, and considering the movie had already been panned by critics, and my peers, the bad experience did nothing to make me go against their opinion.

As a loyal TiVo user and a loyal Apple TV customer, I was hoping to have the best of both worlds. I was excited to see that Amazon could link up with TiVo and give us a price we couldn't refuse, but if Get Smart is anything like the experience we had with The Crystal Skull, we're not ever going to be trying the service again. Very disappointing.