By Elizabeth M. Gillespie, AP Business Writer
SEATTLE --Amazon.com Inc. launched a digital video downloading service Thursday, ending months of speculation that the Internet retailer would be getting into the online TV and movie business.
The service, dubbed Amazon Unbox, will offer thousands of television shows, movies and other videos from more than 30 studios and networks, the company said.
TV shows will cost $1.99 per episode, and most movies will go for $7.99 to $14.99; movies can also be rented for $3.99.
Amazon Unbox will offer shows from CBS, News Corp.'s Fox, MTV, Nickelodeon, PBS, BBC, A&E, Discovery Channel, Comedy Central and The History Channel, among others. General Electric Corp.'s NBC and Walt Disney Co.'s ABC were noticeably absent on the list of participating networks. MTV, Nickelodeon and Comedy Central are owned by Viacom Inc.
Seven major studios are participating in Amazon.com's service: Viacom's Paramount, News Corp.'s 20th Century Fox, Sony Corp.'s Sony Pictures, GE's Universal Studios, Time Warner Inc.'s Warner Bros., Lionsgate Entertainment Corp. and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Inc.
Walt Disney Pictures is not participating. Apple Computer Inc. CEO Steve Jobs is the largest shareholder of Walt Disney Co., and the announcement of Amazon's service comes just days ahead of the expected launch of a movie download service at Apple's iTunes Music Store.
Details of the scope of Apple's expected offerings are unclear, but its pioneering success and market dominance with its iTunes music and TV show downloads as well as its iPod media players have already cast Apple as a leading competitor.