Amazon seeks innovative media models

24 July 2012

LONDON: Amazon, the ecommerce giant, is opening a new research and development centre in the UK, tasked with creating the "next generation" of film and television services for digital devices.

The US firm has signed a deal to take 47,000-square feet of office space in London, close to an area that has become known as the "Silicon Roundabout" due to the number of technology companies based there.

Paula Byrne, the managing director for the innovation hub, told the Daily Telegraph that Amazon is "ramping up its focus and effort and energy" in this category.

"Innovation is part of the Amazon DNA and we are creating a centre of excellence to design and develop the next generation of TV and film services for a wide range of digital devices," she said.

"I wouldn't underplay the value that the UK has brought to this sector. When you look at the specialist skills that are available here, it is the obvious place to come."

Amazon's main assets in the UK include Lovefilm, the video-on demand platform it purchased around 18 months ago for £200m, and which is also available in Germany and Scandinavia.

Pushbutton, a firm developing viewer interfaces for various digital services, was also acquired by Amazon in July 2011, and its staff, along with those for Lovefilm, will soon transfer to the new site.

As a demonstration of the rising competition under way in the UK alone, BSkyB launched NowTV, an online TV and film property, last week.

It closely followed the launch of YouView, a set-top box updating the established Freeview service with a DVR, and supported by the UK's major terrestrial broadcasters: the BBC, ITV, Channel 4 and Five.

"These services should enable a much more refined and targeted form of ad delivery," Ed Barton, head of digital media analysis at Strategy Analytics, said. "TV advertising is by definition a blunt instrument. This could allow, for example, local advertising."

Google, the online pioneer, also recently introduced its Google TV platform in the UK, and Apple, the electronics specialist, is reported to be working on revamping its own competing offering.

"The TV space is very much like the smartphone space was five years ago," Suveer Kothari, head of global distribution for Google TV, said. "Today you can't imagine a phone without a web browser."

Data sourced from Daily Telegraph; additional content by Warc staff