The Stack Archive

Amazon Prime adds iPlayer-style video downloading

Tue 1 Sep 2015

Amazon is to allow members of its Amazon Prime program to download Prime-eligible videos to their devices for offline viewing. However the new feature is not on a par with the way you can download MP3 versions of purchased music, without any digital rights management (DRM). The downloaded videos will be controlled and time-limited in much the same way that the BBC’s iPlayer functions.

Additionally the company’s announcement confirms that the feature will be limited to the walled-garden of its mobile app infrastructure. Downloadable Prime videos will be available on Amazon’s own Fire tablets and phones, and on iOS and Android devices. The facility will not be available on desktops, laptops or other less rigidly-superintended systems.

Furthermore the facility will depend on permission from content owners on a case-by-case basis. Despite the Beeb’s attempts to encrypt and time-lock downloaded content, there are various software workarounds that seek to free downloaded video files from these constraints, as detailed at sites such as convertiplayer.com. Aware of this, rights-holders often refuse to include films in iPlayer’s capability for offline viewing, and Amazon are likely to have to contend with this factor as well.

Like the BBC iPlayer, the Amazon app will place time-limits on downloaded video before it expires, although it has not been made clear as to whether this limit will be fixed or whether the video will be deleted when Amazon’s current Prime licensing rights with the product or vendor expires.

If the feature becomes popular, it may place pressure on Netflix to offer a comparable service, particularly as its market position became weaker with the recent announcement of the loss of hundreds of first-tier movie titles because of the expiry of its agreement with major film distributor Epix.

It will be interesting to see how much vendor circumspection limits this feature; both Amazon and Netflix use Microsoft’s Silverlight technology to render the streams they rent, and the switch to HTML5 on Netflix’s part makes no difference to an end-user’s ability to screen-record and save output.

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