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Friday, December 28, 2007

iTunes video rentals could be huge

Apple is finally going to offer digital movie rentals from its iTunes store, the FT reports. The company has hooked up with News Corp's Twentieth Century Fox to allow short-term rental downloads of Fox DVDs. Apple hasn't officially confirmed the news or said anything about potential pricing, which is rumored to be about $3 per rental.

Apple sells movies for download, but to this point hasn't made anything available to rent. So far, the downloadable rental business has been pretty abysmal, with rivals like Movielink and CinemaNow unable to turn big numbers. But the opportunities are there, and Amazon and others have been working hard to come up with a groundbreaking rental service.

Enter Apple and it's not-so-secret weapon: the iPod (and now the iPhone). I'm assuming Apple will make it easy to shoot movies from your computer to your iPod. If that's the case -- and if Apple shines its marketing megaspotlight on the feature -- iTunes rentals could be huge. The next step might be enabling the downloading directly to an iPod over WiFi, but that could take hours.


And here's an interesting feature: New Fox DVDs will come with a special digital file allowing the films to be ripped to a computer or iPod. It hasn't been easy to do this before.

This is a big win for Apple and Fox, and I suspect other movie studios are close to signing deals or are watching closely to see how this all plays out.

Apple shares are up slightly on the news. Here's what others are saying today:

Wall Street Journal: "Apple has for months been trying to persuade the Hollywood studios to agree to a digital rental model, in which consumers would be able to download movies through iTunes that could be played for a limited time. Until now, no studio has agreed to such a deal with Apple, and some companies have continued to resist Apple's pitch."

Silicon Alley Insider: "Why hasn't anyone really caught up with Apple in the music download market? One reason: Because until Amazon debuted its MP3 store this fall, no store sold popular music that worked on iPods or Mac computers. Similarly, most non-iTunes movie download services don't work on Macs or iPods. And a two-hour download beats a two-day wait for a DVD in the mail."

Mashable: "Assuming that Sony, Paramount and Warner Brothers follow suit, as they are also rumored to do, many folks may quit Blockbuster and Netflix subscriptions for the economy and convenience of an AppleTV unit, especially if rentals are $2.99 for 30 days."

1 comment:

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