Apple's Next iTunes Plan: Movie Rentals?

from the iDivx dept

Since the launch of the iPod video and the addition of downloadable TV shows to the iTunes Music Store, there’s been a lot of speculation about when and movies would get added to the mix. According to one Apple rumors site — which has been sued by Apple for revealing secrets in the past — at Apple’s developer conference later this month, the company will announce that it will rent movies through iTunes (via Broadband Reports), using some sort of DRM to limit their playback to a certain time frame or number of playbacks. Without more details or pricing information, it’s hard to feel that this will be all that successful. One major problem with other, struggling, movie-download sites is that they tie movies to a user’s PC, and don’t let them burn films to DVD so they can watch them on their TV. While one site, Movielink, says it’s licensed some technology to allow users to burn movies to DVD, it still has to get studios to sign off on the idea — something it doesn’t sound like they’re particularly interested in doing. The bigger issue with renting films through iTunes is that, apart from sounding like the digital equivalent of the oft-repeated self-destructing DVD ploy, just like with record labels, the studios’ insistence on playback restrictions make Steve Jobs and Apple the main beneficiaries here. Assuming the movies will be delivered in the same format as the TV episodes iTunes sells, they’re essentially limiting playback to iPod video owners — a pretty narrow market. The service will be basically useless to anybody else, making this just another halfhearted attempt to embrace digital distribution, rather than something that stands much chance of widespread success.


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Comments on “Apple's Next iTunes Plan: Movie Rentals?”

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19 Comments
Shawn says:

Not gonna get off the ground

I agree with the above comment. It won’t take off at all. A small group will use it, and others would probably just take advantage of it and try to steal movies with it. The only way it’d become a money-maker is if by some divine intervention, downloading movie rentals to your iPod becomes a fad in schools and such. But seeing as how there are many more convinient means of viewing movies on your iPod – like converting them from your PC to iPod – it likely won’t happen.

Topher3105 (profile) says:

Sorry, Apple will bomb on this one

I can’t understand how anyone would prefer to watch a movie on a tiny screen. Even though the iPod can connect to a TV, it won’t offer better then standard definition, and this is at a time when the market is moving to high definition.

I am happy to see that Apple realizes they cannot create a market for selling movies through iTunes, and instead opt for a rental model. Still, I would find it ridiculous to spend 30 minutes downloading a poor quality movie file when I could just take a drive or walk to my local DVD rental store in the same amount of time. Of, I just walk to my mailbox and receive new movies through online DVD rental services.

I personally prefer watching a movie in high quality video and sound. While I can tolerate watching television shows or music videos in low quality, I cannot tolerate compromising on quality when it comes to movies, and I think most people will find that to be the case. Movies on EVERY mobile format typically bomb, like UMD and the PSP.

I cannot see Apple offering HD movie files for playback on an iPod or TV through an ipod either. The file formats will be too large for quick downloads and you will use up too much disk space on the iPod to make it practical. I could only hope that perhaps Apple offers low iPod quality movies, and offers high definition movies playable through iTunes on any PC or Mac with TV out.

I think the entire model of selling or renting online digital movie files is a flawed concept, at least for portable players, and I don’t even think Apple can make this a successful market. It will be a novelty for a short while, and Apple may even flaunt a “1 million movies watched” announcement, but ultimately I think their “iMovie” download service will fail miserably. Unless the iPod offers WiFi connectivity and can stream HD content, this market will never take off.

Ultimately, I find this endeavour laughable as Apple hasn’t even positioned themselves to make a Mac work well with home theater systems. Few offer digital surround capabilities and the pitiful 6 button remote is a joke compared to full fledged Media Center PC’s which can actually be used to navigate and control a computer, rather then advance to the next song/video or control the volume. Unless Apple is planning to offer a dedicated HTPC box, I can’t understand their drive to offer movies online, if all they intend to do is force people to compromise on quality in order to play on or through an iPod.

bill says:

Re: Sorry, Apple will bomb on this one

iMovie download service? who said that. iMovie is video editing software for Mac OSX.. obviously you don’t own a Mac. Anywayz, your right about this.. it will bomb. i have a 65in widescreen HD TV and there’s no way i’m even gonna watch a TV show on an Ipod video. in fact the only way i’m buying an ipod video is if my 3G 20GB ipod fills up. which is 5GB away from full.

vincent says:

Think for a minute before dismissing

While you unimaginative folks can’t get off your ipod video screens, there are several creative, average PC and Mac users that know how to send video out their computers onto their TVs.

If the video store is closed and you want to watch a movie, this would be a great alternative, especially if the price is comparable.

LOCOBOX says:

Re: Think for a minute before dismissing

check this out:

iTunes movie rental:

– Turn on computer

– Check out rottentomatoes.com for good reviews of movies, and watch trailers of movies

– Launch iTunes, order movie… 15 minutes later (who knows they might even improve this) it’s done. Sit in your arss and live it up!

Blockbuster/Hollywood video rentals:

– Get out of your house

– Get in your car

– Decide where you want to go, blockbuster/Hollywood/or local video store.

– drive to rental place

– park in rental place

– decide what movie to watch by looking at a DVD case and reading senseless “quotes” from 1-2 movie reviewers.

– Get in line (oh yeah, that’s right… in line)

– Take out your ID/or rental card

– Listen to them try to con you into subscribing to their other rental “solutions”

– find your car (by this time, you’ve forgotten where you parked)

– Get in your car, drive home

– Get home, into your hut… oh SNAP!.. the DVD is scratched!!! unplayable!

– Go back to your rental store (repeat first 6 steps), but before getting there, put some gas..by this time it might be a good idea to do so.

– Get to rental place and they will HAPPILY “EXCHANGE” your movie with a different movie (they will not return your money, or pay for your trouble and spent gas 😉

Locobox says:

Sounds unlikely that Apple will do this...

Sounds unlikely that Apple will do this… but then again if they do, I will most certantly download movies from them Why?… because I don’t see what’s wrong with the quality of the current TV Show downloads, sounds and looks OK to me on my surround sound and 43″ TV…. and they WILL NOT! take 30 minutes man, come on! (have you even used it?). It takes on average 5-7 minutes to download a 40-50 minute show…. that’s on regular cable.

They will be releasing a new and improved version of iTunes for sure, a new iPod, Leopard OS, about the movie rental?… that’s still speculation.

Eric (user link) says:

The make or break factor

Is this service going to be superior to Netflix in pricing, convenience, or quality?

With Netflix I get the complete catalog of all 60,000 titles ever released on DVD (cept for porn). I can get most any title within 24-48 hours of when I decide I want it, though for the most part I’m happy to just get the next movie in my queue as I watch them. It’s DVD quality, and with the right software and a little know-how they’re easy enouh to encode for an iPod. They come right to my door and I can return them across the street at the mailbox. All for $18 a month.

Apple needs to beat them in several ways to have a compelling service.

1) Be cheaper (it’d have to be less than $3 a title to match the 6 titles a month I usually get from Netflix)

2) Play on more devices (Not holding my breath).

3) Be better quality (Not happening).

4) Have a bigger catalog (Impossible, unless Apple sells porn too).

5) Be more convenient (downloading vs my mailbox, not much different so they’re about equal there).

So yeah – Apple does realize that there’s competition right?

(Oh, and that’s not even bringing up the fact that they’re also competing with The Pirate Bay too).

It’s seriously a sad state of affairs when the best way to get digital media over the internet is by buying or renting physical media through Netflix or Amazon.com

Anonymous Coward says:

Might work

Forget the HD argument. When was the last time you rented an HD-DVD? People demanding HD quality for movie rentals is years off.

I regularly watch iTunes video (TV shows) on a 27″ screen. The picture quality is adequate. For movies to be adequate Apple would need about double the current resolution.

Download times is not an issue. Ever heard of streaming?

Apple has a pretty good track-record of delivering a compelling consumer media experience. That is why all their competitors are currently playing catch-up. And let’s not forget that their CEO is also the largest share-holder in Disney(owner of ABC, ESPN, and lots of other content and broadcast companies).

I am curious to see if they can pull this off.

pwb says:

You don’t have to watch videos on your iPod. You can watch them on your Mac/PC or connect either to a TV.

MovieLink and CinemaNow have already broken most of the ground here. Their major failings are being Windows-only and having limited selection. But the user experience is almost adequate (MovieLink only allows 24 hours to watch a movie).

Claire Stewart says:

I don’t know if I believe that this will bomb … before I got burned by a few iPod updates that rendered my iTunes music content unplayable, I bought the first half of the second season of Lost (too late to catch broadcasts, too early to buy DVD). From a video iPod to the TV, the quality was actually tolerable. I noticed the color banding for about the first 5 minutes and then I got used to it. The convenience is so completely seductive; we experimented hooking our laptops directly to the TV and that worked fine too. I wouldn’t think of these as a replacement for my purchased DVDs, but I would think of them as a replacement for a rental. Don’t get me wrong … I completely deplore the idea of living in a DRM world, but I just don’t believe that, if they are able to license a lot of good content that people want, it will fail because of DRM. The wild success of DVDs have proved that. And Apple has a great track record for building technology idiots can run.

Anonymous Coward says:

I'd use it

I use movielink on windows to rent and view movies. I’d do the same on MacOS if I had the option. My experience leads me to believe that is pointless to criticize Apple or Microsoft or any other vendor too much for perceived shortcomings in the market. They are all basically at the mercy of the recording industry in this case. If any of them can figure out a way to distribute media electronically and still ake money, more power to them.

I find the claim that it only benefits Jobs et. al. bemusing. Why would Apple (or Microsoft, or any other business) do something that *didn’t* benefit the company? If what they offer benefits consumers, they will make money. If consumers don’t buy it, they’ll lose money and stop offering the service.

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