How Does Amazon's Video on Demand Work?

By Lou Martin

You may know Amazon primarily as an online retailer, but that's not all it is: The company has begun to expand into additional areas such as digital content. Amazon’s Instant Video on-demand service offers instant access to thousands of movies and TV shows, which you can view either by purchasing, renting or streaming it via a variety of electronic devices, including personal computers, televisions and video game consoles.

Getting Started

Using Amazon's Instant Video service requires you to first create an account with the Amazon.com website, which will allow you to pay for the movies you purchase or rent. Once your account is created, you can browse the site’s video offerings, where you are given the option of renting each title for a 48-hour period or purchasing the selected video. Clicking on the “watch now” link associated with each title gives you instant access to that movie, which begins playing directly on your computer once you have completed the rental transaction. The service’s streaming video is compatible with any Windows or Mac computer and is viewed through the device’s Web browser. The Adobe Flash Player application is required to watch the videos, and if you do not have the correct version of Flash, you will be prompted to download and install the required version. Purchased titles are stored on the Amazon website in the Your Video Library potion of your account, where you can choose either to watch online or to download for offline viewing.

Watching Offline

Some Amazon Instant Video content can only be watched via streaming video, while other titles come with the option of downloading a copy of the title. If downloaded, you must first install the company’s Unbox Video Player application to be able to watch the downloaded video. Downloaded content can be transferred to a variety of computing devices, including portable video players, which must also have the Unbox Video Player application installed for you to watch. As of May 2014, the Unbox Video Player application is free of charge.

Televisions and Game Consoles

As of the date of publication, Amazon has teamed with several electronics companies, including Sony and Roku, to make the Amazon Instant Video on-demand service directly compatible with televisions. You must connect your Amazon Instant Video-compatible television to a broadband Internet connection and register your television with Amazon before you can access the on-demand video service. If you have a high-definition television, you can access Amazon’s HD content to play on your television. The company’s HD content is compatible with 5.1 Surround Sound technology, which is commonly found on HD televisions. In addition to televisions, you can also view Amazon's offerings on video game consoles, including the Xbox One and PlayStation 4.

Prime Service

Currently, Amazon.com offers a Prime membership plan that, for an annual fee, provides you with unlimited access to the videos offered through its Amazon Instant Video service, among other features. As of May 2014, Amazon Prime costs $99 per year and includes some exclusives that other digital content providers don't offer, such as HBO's back catalog. Amazon offers a free trial membership of its Prime service for you to try before deciding to purchase.