In the wake of the second-generation Apple TV's introduction, Amazon has one-upped Steve Jobs with a new TV-streaming scheme. Your 99 cents per show will buy not just limited-time streaming rights, but permanent ones. Apple charges 99 cents to rent, Amazon 99 cents to own (for both HD and SD). Amazon's previous price was $2.99.
Amazon introduced a new Video on Demand store last week, one of two initiatives aimed at supplying online video to consumers, supplementing the hard-copy formats that are the basis of Amazon's huge mail-order business.
Amazon has added Compact Discs to an existing trade-in program that already embraces Blu-ray, DVD, games, books, and electronics. There are two categories: Like New, for unscratched discs with original packaging and artwork in mint condition; and Good, for playable discs with light scratches and other disc or packaging blemishes. Send your stuff to Amazon, with free shipping, and a virtual gift card will be credited to your account. Trade-in lucre might be anything from $1.40 for Adele’s 21 to $5.30 for the Special Edition of Jethro Tull’s Thick as a Brick 2 to $35 for the 13-disc Rolling Stones box set. Of course, some people like having physical media in their libraries, and others may want to keep their audio-codec options open for future reconversions. But if you really hate all that plastic—so much that you want it gone now—here’s your chance to get rid of it and get paid. Amazon will gladly let you consume the credit as new downloads. Search eligible items on amazon.com.
Hot on the heels of Wal-Mart Video Downloads, Amazon is looking to attract more customers to its Unbox service by teaming up with TiVo. Currently in beta, "Amazon Unbox on TiVo" would allow owners of Series2 or -3 TiVos to download and play Unbox videos. Sorry, Series1 and DirecTV TiVo owners can't participate. Besides the TiVo, you'll also need an Amazon account, and you'll need to link it to your TiVo account. A movie download will take anywhere from an hour (with broadband) to five hours (with dial-up). Your downloads will appear on the TiVo's now-playing list. They will not work with the TiVoToGo or multi-room features, but you can download to other devices using Unbox RemoteLoad. More details from Amazon or TiVo.
Desperate to reverse declining movie attendance, the AMC theater chain plans to install reclining seats in 1,800 of its 5,000 theaters. The seats are so big that they had to remove up to two-thirds of seating capacity, leaving some theaters with as few as 70 seats. But attendance has shot up 80 percent in the renovated moviehouses, with box-office revenue rising 60 percent, and that may save theaters that were already losing money.
Just arrived is a long-awaited plan to subsidize digital-to-analog convertors for old TVs to be affected by the final switchover to digital television on February 17, 2009. Each household may request up to two $40 coupons from the National Telecommunications and Information Association. Congress allocated nearly a billion dollars for the program, though critics claim that's not enough, and another half-billion eventually may follow. That should take care of the 15.4 million households wholly dependent on broadcast TV. Also potentially affected would be cable subscribers plugging analog signals directly into their sets. They may have to get convertors from their operators. Affected households may request coupons starting on January 1, 2008 and no later than March 31, 2009 via mail, web, or toll-free number. While the coupons can be used only to buy convertors, there are other ways to make the transition to DTV. You might buy a recording device with an ATSC tuner. Or, of course, a new TV. See NTIA's consumer fact sheet and final ruling.
The transition to digital television is finally complete. Yes, it's true. Analog signals have been banished from the airwaves. If you don't believe me, hop a plane to the Netherlands and see for yourself. The cutoff came between midnight and two a.m. Monday morning, affecting 74,000 of the country's 16 million viewers--most of the remainder get cable, with only token numbers of satellite and IPTV addicts. Broadcast-dependent Dutch viewers will have to pay $66.50 for a set-top box to adapt their analog sets to the new digital signals. However, the government will save $200 per year for each of them, making subsidies at least theoretically possible. Broadcaster Royal KPN NV paid to construct the DTV transmitters. It is obligated to keep broadcasting the three state channels but can charge $18.50 a month for a package of extra channels similar to cable. Belgium and Scandinavia will jump into the DTV pool in 2007, though the United States won't follow till 2009 (or never, if broadcasters get their way).
A single-day record of 55,000 calls flooded help lines staffed by the Federal Communications Commission last Thursday, May 21, after TV stations across the nation broadcast a series of warnings about the shutoff of analog television signals scheduled for June 12.