Panasonic's Viera Cast-enabled HDTVs just got more interesting. Viera Cast expands its offerings today with the availability of Amazon Video on Demand on select current and future TVs. Even on last year's Viera Cast series, the Viera PZ850 (the service requires a free software update in order to register the TV with Amazon Video on Demand), will be able to access Amazon Video on Demand services. The Amazon support will be extended to Viera Cast-enabled Blu-ray Disc players, such as the DMP-BD60K.
The inclusion of such a wide-reaching service as Amazon Video on Demand builds on the forward-looking upgrade potential that televisions with Internet-based services like Viera Cast offer. It also eliminates the need for such capabilities in a separate box--one which requires its own space and cabling; currently, the compact, US$100 Roku Digital Video Player delivers both Netflix and Amazon Video on Demand. Amazon currently provides more than 40,000 movies and TV shows (500 of which are in high-definition).
The Amazon service is in addition to YouTube, Picasa Web Albums, Bloomberg News, and weather information. I had mostly liked the Amazon service when I used it via the Roku Digital Video Player, and my guess is that Amazon via Panasonic HDTVs will be very similar, if not identical to, the experience through the Roku. On the Roku, once I had set up a purchase PIN via my PC, I could browse through categories for purchase or rental content; content is divided between 'Movies' and 'Television', and then further subdivided by category and availability. I scrolled through choices by moving horizontally through cover-art thumbnails of titles, and could complete my transactions directly on-screen--a boon for impulse watching. However, I found navigating among options a bit daunting, considering that I had no way of searching content from my couch.
Once you've selected a title for purchase, it goes into your Amazon Video on Demand Library, stored in the cloud on Amazon's servers. Rentals are priced at from US$2 to $4 and are available for streaming via the Roku Digital Video Player, or from your PC for 24 hours from the moment you purchase a title. Purchased video costs $2 for a TV episode, up to $15 for a movie, and more for full TV seasons. An added bonus: You can access video from your Video Library for streaming playback online via a connected device or a PC, or you can download it to two locations and up to two portable devices, per Amazon's purchase terms