There aren’t any real details yet, but during the D: All Things Digital conference Amazon founder Jeff Bezos said (according to CNET):
We are working on a new version of video on demand, a for pay streaming service we will release in the next couple of weeks. The streaming service will start instantly and it’s a la carte, for pay.
And that’s pretty much all we know. It sounds like they’re looking to head off Netflix. Amazon already has the download service with the broadest selection of video, and by adding streaming they’ll have downloads (purchase and rental) and streaming. Downloads appeal to those looking for higher quality, or those who don’t have a fast enough broadband connection to stream are decent quality. While streaming appeals more to those who are impatient and want instant gratification. And streaming could be extended to platforms that can’t handle downloads since the hardware requirement is lower (no storage). I do hope that there is some synergy – if you purchase a download from Unbox you should be able to stream it later since you own it.
Unlike Netflix, which includes all-you-can-stream content in a monthly subscription, it looks like Amazon will be a pay-per-stream model. And no, there is no word on if this will come to TiVo to compliment the current Unbox downloads. The system is certainly technically capable of supporting it, though it’d probably be restricted to the Series3 and TiVo HD since streaming MPEG-2 (for the S2) would be a non-starter. I’d expect Amazon to use H.264 or WMV/VC-1 for streaming.