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Navigating the Zune Video Store

Microsoft has significantly expanded the  Zune video store with the release of version 4.0 of the Zune software, to capitalize on the increased interest in watching video content on the Zune HD.

Part 1 of this article series will give you an overview of types of videos available in the Zune store and what you need to buy (or rent) them.

Part 2 will walk you through the process of buying a video.

Finally, part 3 will focus on the Zune video rental process.

Buying or Renting Zune Videos

If you are looking to buy or rent Zune videos for either your new Zune HD or legacy Zune player, check out the video section of the Zune marketplace.

You'll find TV shows, movies and music videos at a competitive price (at least compared to other legal online video stores). And the user experience is highly optimized for a Zune.

Note that the rental option is available only for movies and only for the Zune HD.

Zune Video Store

Zune Marketplace Currency

Before you begin…

Make sure to have a healthy balance of Microsoft points on your Zune account. You'll need them to purchase any video content from the Zune marketplace.

So, how many points do you need?

Well, it depends on what you're trying to buy. The number of points varies depending on whether you're purchasing a TV show, music video or a movie. It also depends on whether you're purchasing SD or HD content (HD being more expensive, of course).

A single TV show episode usually runs around 160 points for SD and 240 points for the HD version. This equals $2 for an SD episode and $3 for an HD episode, for those of us who are "point" challenged. (And this probably includes 99% of the Zune owning population!)

A SD movie will cost you 1200 points ($15) and it's HD equivalent costs 1600 points ($20).

A music video ranges anywhere from 119 to 210 points ($1.49 - $2.62), the most common price being 159 points ($1.99). Why the odd numbers? Your guess is as good as mine.

You can also save money by renting. The SD version of a movie is available for rent for 320 points ($4) and the HD version costs 480 points ($6).

What's the "point"?

Microsoft points are like tickets at a carnival. You purchase tickets by exchanging real money. Later you exchange the tickets for rides and food. Only at the Zune marketplace you exchange "points" for music or video.

So, how many cents equals a "point"? Where do you buy this "funny money"? And how are Microsoft points different from Zune Pass credits? Or are they the same thing?

If you don't know the answer to these questions, read this FAQ page for everything you ever wanted to know about Microsoft points. Even if you have no intention of becoming a Zune trivia buff!

Browsing the Zune Video Store

The Zune video store is organized into the following 5 categories.

All - Shows you everything at a glance including list of top movie purchases and top TV episodes, new movies and TV shows recently added. It also gives you staff recommendations.

This screen gives you a good idea of what's popular and newly added content. But if you're looking for something in particular it's better to browse the other categories or use the search function.

TV - The TV section is the most well-stocked section of the Zune video store as of this writing (October 2009).

You can find your favorite shows for purchase from around 40 different television and cable networks. Do they have the Office? Check! House? Check! 30 Rock? Check!

What about the Sopranos? Sorry! HBO is not currently included as one of the networks. (Ok, maybe not all of your favorite shows are here yet, but new ones are added regularly.)

Movies - The movie section is currently sparsely populated, unfortunately. New movies are added on a regular basis but it's going to take a while for it to build up a half-decent collection.

I searched for my favorite movie Casino Royale and couldn't find it. However it was available in the iTunes store. I also noticed that some of the versions were cheaper at iTunes too!

For example, you could rent the HD version for $4.99 instead of the $6 at the Zune store. Also, the SD version was available for purchase for $9.99. Now it could be that the licensing for this movie is different and Zune would be able to offer it at the same price. Since it's not available right now I couldn't do an apples-to-apples comparison.

The other good news is that since it's available at iTunes, it should be only a matter of time till it's available in the Zune video store too. It takes forever to negotiate legal contracts, as anyone whose worked with lawyers knows!

Music Videos - It allows you to buy, well, music videos, of course! You can browse through various genres like rock, electronic, jazz and kids looking for your favorite videos.

It too seems sparsely populated, in my humble opinion. You'll find more videos on YouTube!

Movie Trailers - You can also find movie trailers for what I'm assuming are movies that will be available soon in the Zune video store. But you can't download these trailers or sync them to your Zune.

The movies that are already available allow you to watch a trailer before you decide to purchase it. You won't find those in this section but they are available in the movies section alongside the movie.

Next, we'll walk through the process of buying a video through the Zune video store.

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