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Sorry, Apple Movie Rentals No Game-Changer January 15, 2008

Posted by David Card in Media.
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I’m sorry, but I’ll have to disagree that Apple’s movie rental story will do for movies what iTunes did for music. To really change the game in movie rentals, somebody will have to:

– Match the big hits content library. Not the long tail
– Feed the biggest screen in the house, the TV set
– Make a price breakthrough
– Make a release windows breakthrough
– Match or better DVD quality (because of those bigger screens)

Apple’s catalog is puny (1,000 titles) and not hits-focued, and it’s in a crummy release window (30 days post DVD). AppleTV is getting better, but probably isn’t there yet for the masses. Its ease of use is surely better than some alternatives, but it’s not set-top box with on-screen promotion (and hey, even that hasn’t worked for MSO VoD). Rental pricing is good ($3.99 for current hits). I haven’t seen the quality, but prior iTunes store releases and AppleTV connections didn’t cut it on big-screen TV sets.

Apple’s ecosystem is a force, to be sure, but this isn’t about three screens yet, it’s about the Big Screen.

Lost on iTunes a day after release, without having to wait for the DVD was a breakthrough it its day, but quickly matched and bettered by ad-supported streaming solutions. The iPod revolutionized music, and the iTunes store’s catalog, ease of use, pricing, and the fact you could buy singles were game-changers.

This isn’t about “Internet movies,” it’s about delivering on-demand content to the TV set. The competition is with cable, satellite, Blockbuster, Netflix, and the networks all of whom are tough. The “dinosaur” studios & networks are way more aggressive in exploring digital than the record industry was, and Apple can’t bully them like it did the labels.

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