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Thursday, February 8, 2007 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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From Amazon to TiVo to you

Seattle Times retail reporter

It's suddenly getting cozy in the living room.

Amazon.com said Wednesday it would soon offer TiVo subscribers the ability to play movies and television shows either rented or purchased on its site — a day after Wal-Mart muscled its way into the movie-download business.

Amazon's service — "Amazon Unbox on TiVo" — will offer thousands of TV shows and movies from CBS, Fox Entertainment Group, Lions Gate, Paramount Pictures, Universal Studios and Warner Bros to the more than 1.5 million TiVo subscribers with high-speed Internet connections.

Amazon is testing the service with a select group of TiVo subscribers. The TiVo.com site asked customers to sign up for notification of the service.

The major Hollywood film studios have faced increasing pressure to sell movies online, as box-office receipts decline and peer-to-peer networks offer illegal movie downloads free.

But the studios have been slow to loosen licensing restrictions that would give consumers the ability to unshackle content from desktop computers.

When Amazon unveiled "Amazon Unbox" in September, technology analysts widely panned the movie-download service for not offering the ability to burn movies to DVD for play on a television set — an issue they said would prohibit mass adoption.

With Wednesday's announcement, Amazon has solved part of that dilemma — hot-to-play digital content on television sets — but only for TiVo subscribers.

TiVo, which charges $69.99 or more for a TiVo box, plus a $12.95 and up monthly subscription fee to digitally record TV shows, will compete with other high-profile devices.

Apple Computer recently introduced Apple TV, a $299 device that wirelessly receives movies from a PC or Mac. But the device centers on movies purchased through Apple's iTunes video store, which features limited titles from Disney's movie arm, Buena Vista Home Entertainment.

Microsoft, meanwhile, launched a video-download service for its Xbox 360 game console Nov. 22, allowing users with a broadband Internet connection to download content from Xbox Live Marketplace and store it on the console's hard drive.

If all these services allow users to play content, Amazon faces fierce competition when it comes to selling movies and TV shows online.

Wal-Mart on Tuesday announced its own movie-download service, the first backed by all the major film studios and featuring more than 3,000 movies and television shows.

At Wal-Mart, most new releases cost between $14.88 and $19.88.

Amazon's service charges between $9.99 and $14.99 for most movies. Rentals start at $1.99.

The downloads are priced from $1.96 for episodes of television shows, to up to $19.88 for new movies.

Amazon's shares closed Wednesday at $38.98, up 71 cents.

Monica Soto Ouchi: 206-515-5632 or msoto@seattletimes.com

Copyright © The Seattle Times Company

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