AOL to Suspend Paid Downloads, Replace with Amazon Unbox

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AOL Video is going to drop its own for-pay download offerings in favor of Amazon Unbox, according to company officials. AOL will integrate links to Amazon Unbox, while content will be integrated throughout AOL Video and in relevant video search results across the site. The integration of Unbox within AOL Video begins tomorrow and will be complete in about a week.

The switch is well under way. At present, over 20,000 Amazon (AMZN) assets are available via AOL Video Search, and a special search channel, Amazon on AOL, has been created on video.aol.com. The AOL Video portal was launched in 2006 with paid downloads for movies and TV shows. In recent months, AOL (TWX) has shifted to an ad-supported business model. AOL Video is now focusing on building an extensive catalog of free streaming content.

“It has led us to the decision to stop selling digital downloads directly to consumers,” said Fred McIntyre, senior VP of AOL Video, who had previously told NewTeeVee about AOL pulling back its Hi-Q HD download service due to lack of interest. “While AOL will no longer operate an independent digital download destination, we have partnered with Amazon.com to integrate Amazon Unbox into AOL Video, offering our users the ability to download thousands of television shows, movies and other video content.”

McIntyre noted that the Amazon partnership will allow AOL to stay focused on streaming content. “We’ve worked hard to strike distribution deals with leading content providers and AOL video is currently the only online video destination that offers free streaming prime-time content from all four major TV networks,” he added. AOL is pushing video search and has been pouring a lot of resources into Truveo.

For Amazon, this could prove to be a big shot in the arm. Even though Unbox is available via TiVo (TIVO), the service can be described, at best, as a forgettable success. AOL’s audience could help boost its download sales.

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Paula Rosenthal

This is terrible news for deaf and hard of hearing consumers who rely on closed captions in order to follow dialogue during movies. Amazon Unbox does NOT support captions or subtitles and is not in compliance with federal regulations requiring them for movies and television programs.

In this age where most DVDs, television shows and even commercials are captioned, nearly all hotels have television sets with captions and more movie theaters are finally offering screenings with open captions, I find Amazon’s complete disregard for their deaf and hard of hearing consumers reprehensible.

Amazon was contacted and we blogged about this back in June: http://www.hearingexchange.com/blogs/?s=amazon+unbox

Paula Rosenthal
HearingExchange
Blog and Resources for People with Hearing Loss Since 2000
http://www.HearingExchange.com

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