Tivo and Amazon Unboxed

Matt Riggins writes:

Why I’ll never use the Amazon Unbox / Tivo Service again. (after only using it once)

Tonight I got an automatically generated email from Tivo regarding the Amazon Unboxed / Tivo deal and how I can rent or download movies from Amazon directly to the Tivo. This seemed like a nice option as having a young child my wife and I have not really gone to the movies in 2 years. Having them on my Tivo seemed like a nice option.

Here are my experiences.

  1. The Amazon Unbox web UI is horrible. They list out x amount of movies per page, out of over 5,000 something movies and tv shows. You can search, but the overall ease of use is the worst I’ve ever seen. Episodes are mixed in with rentals and those are mixed in with full movie purchases. One slip and you could be buying a movie, not renting one.

  2. It mentioned that if I “signed up” prior to late April, I would receive $15 for purchases. I signed up which was free, and then proceeded to rent a movie. It asked me for my credit card information. Never did it ever state I had a $15 credit on Amazon’s website. Eventually after the “rental” purchase, I received an email showing the subtotal of the rental which was $3.99, minus discounts/promotions of $3.99 and total for his order $0.00. The email gives me no running balance. Very lame.

  3. It then starts to transfer the movie to my Tivo, which is connected to my network via the wireless adapter. As we know, this is no way to transfer large amounts of data. 2 hours later, I had the rental movie on my Tivo.

  4. I rented the movie on 3/12/07. Upon looking at the Now Playing list and clicking once on the rental to look at it, in very small and (not aligned) text across the entire middle of the screen it stated this movie would be kept until 3/14/07 and deleted on 4/11/07. How confusing is that? I tried to figure it out, ok maybe it’ll be kept in Now Playing until 3/14/07 (so, two days rental time, for $3.99 weak!) and then get moved to deleted, where I can retrieve it up until 4/11/07? Who knows, I had no clue.

  5. And to top it all off, after spending 10 minutes on number 4, trying to figure out how long I could keep the movie, I hit Play. It then shows me another screen that says to this likes… Due to copyright restrictions, this movie can only be kept for 24 hours after the first initial play of the movie. Once the timer starts, you can play the movie as much as you want for 24 hours. After that it will be deleted.

This is by far the most lame dvd/movie/rental/dvr setup I’ve ever seen, for all the reasons above. I’ll never buy another Amazon Unboxed rental/movie again for my Tivo or PC. It’s back to my nice iTunes account, which I can play forever on my machine and sync to my iPod. I’ll buy an Apple TV and have all my purchases ready for play, when ever I want, on my TV.

Matt Riggins mattriggins@ca.rr.com


  1. I tried Unbox last night for the first time. i didn’t have as negative a reaction as you did. There are definitely things that need improving — the 24-hour time limit is pretty terrible. I didn’t mind the slow download, because it’s as long as it would take anywhere else. (Not their fault.) I had no problem with the web site.

    Overall, actually, I loved it. Just that short viewing window, which is garbage. All in all though, a solid first step.

    Shelly Palmer posted a good essay about where all this “cable bypass” Internet TV is headed: http://advancedmediacommittee.typepad.com/emmyadvancedmedia/2007/01/overthetop_fi.html


  2. I read the announcement, hit the Amazon site and linked my TiVo account with my Amazon account. Then I browsed the selection and prices. Why I didn’t and probably never WILL use Unboxed: 1)I can view up to 6 DVDs from NetFlix in a week. That’s 24 a month… For $20/mo. Let’s be nice… $1/DVD. But the Amazon price is $14.99. Hmmm. Should I think about this? It’s only going to take me 1-3 days to download the file to my Tivo (Series 2, USB 1.0), so I can have a higher quality version by then … FOR WAY LESS. I don’t think so, Amazon/TiVO. I’ll pay 4.99 for Just released to Theatre movies and 99 cents for anything on DVD. 49 cents for TV shows. Anything more than that is a ripoff, which is, after all, what the MPAA does best.

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