- The Washington Times - Monday, September 29, 2008

Amazon has VOD

Viewership is down for some television series as fans watch the shows on their own time — and on their own computers.

Last week, for example, NBC’s “Heroes” had just 9.9 million viewers for its premiere, down 25 percent from last year. Internet observers, though, pointed out that the show was one of the most popular on (illegal) file-sharing sites.

That hasn’t stopped NBC from offering some of its premieres free on the Web, sometimes even before the shows air on TV.

You can see them on Amazon.com’s new Video on Demand service. The retailer was already known for selling both books and music online but now is moving even further into the territory of Apple Inc.’s iTunes store with video.

Amazon Video on Demand works on both Macs and PCs and allows you to watch movies and television shows commercial-free. Most new-release movie rentals are priced at $3.99, although Amazon’s most-rented title is free: Michael Moore’s new documentary “Slacker Uprising.” The second and third top rentals are the Las Vegas drama “21” and the London period comedy “Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day.”

TV episodes cost the same as they do on iTunes — $1.99. You can get a discount — usually about 10 cents per episode — if you sign up for a TV Pass to get every episode of your favorite show. About 500 shows are available. That includes the shows that NBC is making available right now at no charge. Perhaps you watched the premieres of “Life” and “Chuck” as early as a week ago, although both officially bow tonight. Beginning Thursday, you’ll also be able to see the first episode “Kath & Kim,” the new series starring “Saturday Night Live” alumna Molly Shannon, a week before it airs.

Moreover, Amazon also is offering some exclusive extra content, such as cast interviews. You can watch “Monk” star Tony Shalhoub talking about the show’s 100th episode, for example.

If you have a TiVo digital recorder or a Sony BRAVIA TV, you can buy shows and movies straight from the device. Otherwise, you’ll have to log onto Amazon and either watch them on your computer or transfer them to a portable device. However, there’s one popular music and video player not on the list of compatible devices, which includes the SanDisk Sansa and Creative Zen: “Downloaded videos cannot be transferred to iPods,” the site notes.

On tap tonight

Taxi to the Dark Side (9 p.m., HBO) — The premium cable premiere of this 2007 Oscar-winning documentary, which takes a disturbing, in-depth look at the highly questionable interrogation practices used by the U.S. military on prisoners in Afghanistan, Iraq and Guantanamo Bay in the years following Sept. 11.

Compiled by Kelly Jane Torrance and Robyn-Denise Yourse from staff, Web and wire reports

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