Amazon's Disc+ On Demand Could Be Big

Amazon has unveiled a "limited time only" promotion called Disc+ On Demand that has the potential to change the way we consume media. Now when you purchase select DVD or Blu-ray discs, you can download a digital copy of your film for instant viewing via your Mac, PC, Roku, TiVo, and more. This promotion is the perfect way to get a little more out of the Christmas gifts you buy for others; you can watch the movies first.

As with most promising ideas, Disc+ On Demand comes with a few catches:

  1. Selection: Amazon has only roughly 300 Disc+ On Demand titles available, out of its hundreds of thousands of DVDs.
  1. Quality: all Disc+ On Demand downloads are standard definition only, so don't expect to fully utilize your 1080p display.
  1. Limits: downloads are treated as Amazon Video On Demand rentals, meaning the terms limit customers to a 24 hour or 30-day window and require a U.S. address, due to licensing issues.

Shortcomings aside, Amazon may be onto something big here. DVD sales slumped hard in 2008, and though Blu-ray has grown in popularity, digital downloads and streaming Internet video has put physical media under threat. But Amazon could rescue DVD sales with Disc+ On Demand, enticing its customers with the delicious carrot of instant gratification -- a beast that emerges frequently during holiday seasons. Also, Amazon got a head-start on Best Buy's similar download service, which is due in 2010, so if this concept blows up, Best Buy might come off a copycat.

There's a lot of room for growth with Disc+ On Demand. Amazon would be smart to broaden selection, improve viewing quality, and turn Disc+ On Demand titles into permanent fixtures.

But it's the potential for offshoots and evolution that make Amazon's concept truly fascinating. A blog dedicated to eBook readers pointed out that if Amazon adds a plus sign to other forms of its media, it could have a massive success. Imagine purchasing a hardcover book on Amazon and receiving a free (or modestly priced) eBook edition of the same title. So if you don't want to always lug around all 1088 pages of Stephen King's Under the Dome, you can choose the convenient times to read it on your Kindle instead, leaving the hardcover on your nightstand, perfect for those still wary of the eBooks phenomenon. The same goes for Amazon MP3. Want the CD for prosperity's sake, but also the MP3 on your iPod? Purchase one, get the other. Simple as that.

In order to make Disc+ On Demand work, Amazon needs to extend it into permanence and scrap the "limited time only" tag. Likely Amazon is reluctant to do so given the service's infancy, but if it lifts off the ground, Amazon can mature and broaden it to eBook+ On Demand and MP3+ On Demand, and truly change the game.

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