Panasonic announced this morning that Amazon Video On Demand streaming has been added to the company's Blu-ray players, including the DMP-BD60K, DMP-BD80K, DMP-B15, DMP-BD70V, and home theater systems with integrated Blu-ray, such as the SC-BT200 and SC-BT300. Amazon streaming is integrated into Panasonic's online media portal, VieraCast, that already includes content from YouTube, Picasa, weather, and Bloomberg stock quotes.
We have the SC-BT200 on hand, and we took the Amazon streaming service for quick spin. The experience is essentially identical to what we experienced when reviewing the TC-PV10 series of Panasonic plasmas. The pay-per-view movie and TV service includes access to so-called high-def content, and can supplement or supplant cable or satellite PPV offerings with its significantly larger catalog. We appreciated that, unlike some implementations of Amazon VOD, VieraCast allows you to preview content before purchase--either showing a trailer or the first few minutes of the movie. Video quality was acceptable for a streaming service, but eagle-eyed videophiles will easily spot its deficiencies compared with, say, a Blu-ray of the same film.
One advantage to using VieraCast on a Blu-ray player or HTIB is that you still retain access to your TV's aspect ratio controls; on Panasonic TVs, using VieraCast disables many of these functions. This is especially useful on some of Amazon's content that is windowboxed (black bars on all sides).
While VieraCast's selection of online content is certainly better than Blu-ray players that lack any streaming content, we still prefer the combination of Netflix and Pandora that is available on Samsung Blu-ray players and LG home theater systems. On the other hand, the VieraCast platform is completely server-based, so we wouldn't be surprised to see Panasonic add more services in the future.