In a deal expected to be announced Wednesday, Amazon and TiVo will allow TiVo owners who shop on Amazon's digital download store, called Amazon Unbox, to send films and TV shows to their broadband-connected TiVo machines, and pause and fast-forward through them as they do a regular TV program.
The partnership gives Amazon an advantage over other download services like the iTunes Store, CinemaNow and a new service from Wal-Mart. Moving video files purchased on those sites from the PC to the television is tricky, generally requiring the setup of a home network.
Apple plans to start selling a device this month that will attach to a TV and pull in videos from a computer over a wireless network.
TiVo and Amazon will begin testing the new service on Wednesday and plan to make it available more broadly in the coming weeks to the 1.5 million owners of broadband-connected TiVos.
To activate the service, TiVo owners must register their machines on Amazon's site. With each purchase or rental, they will have the option to send a digital copy of the movie or show to their TiVos, in addition to downloading it to their PC.
There is no additional charge for the service, which is called Amazon Unbox on TiVo. The service will not work for satellite or cable TV subscribers whose set-top boxes run TiVo software.
Executives at Amazon and TiVo said bypassing the PC would open the digital download market to a more mainstream audience.
"Certainly there is a phenomenon of people watching short video clips on sites like YouTube," said TiVo's chief executive, Thomas S. Rogers. "But our research clearly shows that when it comes to full-length movies and television shows, for the real experience, it needs to be on the TV set."
Bill Carr, vice president for digital media at Amazon, said that the service would also provide a better experience than the video-on-demand stores offered by cable companies, mostly because its selection is greater and the Internet allows for easier browsing.
"As we know, a lot of people spend their time shopping and browsing for content they love on their PC, and the cable services don't allow you to do that," Carr said.
Amazon Unbox, which was introduced last September, received poor early reviews for its clunky software and slow downloads. Amazon says the average movie should take about an hour to download on a fast broadband connection, but users have reported longer waits.
Videos rented from the site must be watched within 30 days, and once a video starts playing it must be watched within 24 hours.
Most of the media companies that sell or rent TV shows and movies through Amazon Unbox, including CBS, Fox, Paramount Pictures, Universal Studios and Warner Brothers, will make them available to TiVo users. Others, including Sony, are not yet signed up but Rogers said he expected them to come aboard shortly.