Amazon Unbox weeks away from a movie streaming service, but what’s the point?

When I said earlier that the digital movie distribution landscape is becoming a crowded place, I meant to say a crowded and combative place. At the All Things D conference currently going on in Carlsbad, CA, Walt Mossberg interviewed Amazon chief executive Jeff Bezos who mentioned that Amazon’s Unbox service will unveil a for-pay streaming service in the next few weeks.

Unbox currently offers the ability to download and rent movies, not stream them. While the immediate thought is that this is a response to Netflix, which allows users to stream unlimited amounts of select titles for free to their computers, and soon to their televisions with the Roku box, the key phrase in Bezos’ remarks is “for-pay.” To me that makes it seem more like a rental service — which Unbox already offers.

So what’s will be the point of the streaming service? Unfortunately, Mossberg didn’t have Bezos elaborate on his comments so we have absolutely no details other than it will be coming soon and will be a paid service.

I would speculate that this will be an unlimited streaming subscription service similar to Netflix, but Tech Trader Daily is reporting that the service will be a la carte. Which again, reeks of rental.

Perhaps it will work like this: you’ll pay a monthly fee and you have access to a certain number of films that month. For that to work, it would have to be a better deal than simply renting those movies at their current prices (most are $3.99). Basically, that would be a renting movies in bulk service.

As I said, that is just speculation, but on the surface a streaming service doesn’t seem to make too much sense unless it’s unlimited like the Netflix offering.


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