Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Rent Flicks with iTunes

As if the DVD rental and on-demand markets didn't have to deal with enough competition for consumer dollars, Apple has decided to enter the movie "rental" business through its popular iTunes digital download service. The service, now available in the U.S., will include more than 1,000 titles by the end of February, over 100 of which will be high-definition with 5.1 Dolby Digital surround sound for watching on a large-screen display via Apple TV. As per usual, there's no word on movie rentals in Canada just yet, since this would require separate distribution deals with each participating movie studio.

As it stands in the U.S., participating studios include 20th Century Fox, The Walt Disney Studios, Warner Bros., Paramount, Universal Studios Home Entertainment, Sony Pictures, MGM, Lionsgate, and New Line Cinema: pretty much all the majors. Movies can be "rented" for 24-hour periods, and watched any number of times during that slot. If you watch the flick immediately, no worries: you'll have 30-days before the rental expires, so to speak. And the movies are actually comparable in price to what you might pay in an actual rental store: US$3.99 for new releases, US$2.99 for library titles, and US$5 for new releases in HD. Not too shabby.

As mentioned in the previous post, these such announcements are great for technological innovation, but not so great for cable and satellite TV, which has been suffering a great deal due to the current Writer's Strike. The iTunes movie downloads just gives customers another reason to move toward another means of obtaining video entertainment. And with the availability of high-definition content, it might just give Blu-ray and HD DVDs a run for their money as well. Hopefully similar distribution deals will be inked in Canada in the near future.

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