TiVo recently announced a partnership with Amazon.com. The partnership, called "Amazon Unbox on TiVo," allows TiVo users to buy or rent videos on Amazon and have them downloaded directly to their TiVo DVR's. This article explains how the program works and what you need to do to enable your TiVo DVR for this service.
To download videos from Amazon, you'll need a Series2 or Series3 TiVo DVR. Unfortunately, the old Series1 and DirecTV DVR's don't support Amazon downloads. Next, you'll need to make sure your TiVo DVR is networked.
Once your Series2 or Series3 TiVo DVR is networked, you're ready to register your DVR with Amazon to enable the service. Just follow these easy steps:
1. If you don't have an account on TiVo.com yet, point your browser at TiVo's online Manage My Account page to sign up for a free account. If your email address isn't on file with TiVo, you'll need your TiVo Service Number to create your account. The Service number can be found onscreen on your TiVo DVR under TiVo Central, Messages & Setup, System Information.
2. Once you've created your TiVo.com account, log into the Manage My Account page. Give your DVR a name and make sure the "Enable Video Downloads" check box is selected.
3. If you don't have an Amazon account yet, head over to Amazon.com to sign up for a free account.
4. Once you've established accounts at both TiVo and Amazon, you're ready to link them. Go to www.amazon.com/unbox. Once there, click on the Amazon Unbox on TiVo box (see picture below). Follow the step-by-step instructions to add your TiVo DVR to your Amazon account.
5. Once you've added your TiVo DVR to your Amazon account, you can verify that your DVR was registered by going to www.amazon.com/unbox/TiVo. The page should list all TiVo DVR's you've registered with Amazon.
Purchasing Videos on Amazon.com
Now that you're registered, you can purchase videos from Amazon for your TiVo. You can either buy them or rent them, but you have to find them on Amazon before you can do either. Not all of the movies that Amazon sells are available via the Unbox on TiVo program. If you want to browse the rather lengthy list of titles available for your TiVo, go to amazon.com/unbox. Under the "For Your TiVo DVR" section, you can select either "Movies to Rent" or "Movies to Purchase" to browse the entire catalogue of available titles:
Browsing through those huge lists can be a pain. A better way to find the content you care about is with Amazon's search tool. Simply add the word "TiVo" to any search you perform and you should find the TiVo downloads, if they're available. For example, searching on "Lady In The Water TiVo" returns two relevant records for the movie "Lady In The Water": a purchase download for $14.99 and a rental download for $3.99.
Once you've found the movie you want, just select your TiVo DVR from the drop down box and click "Buy now with 1-Click" or "Rent now with 1-Click".
Once you've made your purchase, Amazon sends your download to your TiVo. The title will show up in your Now Playing list with a blue dot next to the title while it's downloading. Amazon claims that a full-length movie should take about one hour to download across a broadband network connection. You must wait for the download to complete before you can begin viewing your purchase. After it is downloaded, it plays from your Now Playing list just like any other recorded program with all the wonderful TiVo controls you've come to love.
To clarify how the Amazon Unbox with TiVo program works, here are a few answers to program-specific questions you might have:
1. What are these "Black-Out Periods" I'm hearing about?
Under the terms of its agreement with the movie studios, Amazon has agreed to limit your ability to re-download movie content during certain stretches of time. Normally, when you purchase (not rent) a movie from Amazon Unbox, you can delete that movie from your TiVo and re-download it from Amazon anytime. However, when that movie is being played by the cable movie channels, you may not be able to re-download the movie until it completes its cycle through the cable channels. If the movie is still in your Now Playing list on TiVo during this period, you're fine. Only your ability to re-download the title from Amazon is temporarily interrupted.
2. Can I Offload Amazon Unbox movies to a PC with TiVoToGo?
Sorry, they thought of that one. No can do. When you purchase a movie from Amazon, however, you do have the option of downloading the movie to up to two locations including 2 TiVo DVR's, 2 PC's, or one of each. If you want the movie on your PC, just download one of your allowed copies directly from Amazon to your PC.
3. Will I be able to watch downloaded movies as many times as I want?
It depends whether your download was a purchase or a rental. Here's how the two different options work:
You can keep a rental download UNWATCHED in your Now Playing list for 30 days. After that time it will be automatically deleted. When you start playing your rental for the first time, a 24-hour countdown begins. During that period, you may watch the rental as many times as you wish, pause it, skip around in it, and do anything you could do in a regular recorded TiVo program. After 24 hours, the program will automatically be deleted. Once you've deleted a rental (or it's been automatically deleted), you can't re-download the program from Amazon without paying for another rental.
If you purchased the movie, it's yours to watch as many times as you wish while its on your TiVo. If you mark it with a "Keep Until I Delete" green dot, it will never be automatically deleted. As noted above, if you have multiple TiVos, you can even download a second copy to a different TiVo DVR (or to a PC). If you want to free up space on your TiVo, you can delete the movie from your Now Playing list. It can be re-downloaded free of charge from Amazon's Your Media Library anytime, EXCEPT during blackout periods. Amazon will remove purchased titles from Your Media Library when they enter blackout. Amazon will return them to Your Media Library when the blackout period ends.
4. Are all DVD's Amazon sells available for purchase and rental on TiVo?
No. The Amazon Unbox on TiVo program is still in its infancy. Many of the titles it sells haven't yet been made available through the Unbox download program. To browse the current list of titles available for download, point your browser at amazon.com/unbox.
5. If I delete a download from my TiVo, can I re-download it?
If it was a rental, no. If it was a purchase, yes, unless the movie is in a blackout period. Go to Your Media Library to re-download a purchased title.
6. What is the quality of videos downloaded from Amazon Unbox?
The downloaded movies are DVD-quality. This means they're higher quality than programs recorded with the "Best Quality" setting on Series2 DVRs.