Yes, we’ve been hearing the rumors that Apple "may" launch a movie rental service via iTunes. So this got me thinking as to what it would take to get my movie rental business? It also got me thinking about the possibility of one vendor doing it all. Currently I do the bulk of my movie renting via Netflix. They won me over years ago by having a service with NO LATE FEES! Netflix has been just about perfect for me as I’m able to now rent the movies I want in Blu-ray, HD DVD and standard def DVD. Of course the biggest downside is actually having to wait for a disc to show up in the mail. It’s not that big of a deal, because I’ve been so busy lately that there is always a movie or two here to watch that I haven’t seen yet. However, there are those times when someone says, "you have to see _________!" They get me excited and I want to watch that movie right then and there that evening. Luckily with TiVo HD and Amazon Unbox, I can usually satisfy that need with a download directly to my TiVo box. However, there are some gotchas there too. Amazon doesn’t have everything available for rental. For example, I wanted to see the first National Treasure movie again before seeing the new one. So I figured I’d fire up Amazon Unbox and rent it and watch it that night. However, the movie couldn’t be found! I didn’t feel like going out to pick it up (even though Hollywood Video is walking distance from my house), so I bought it via iTunes and was watching it a few minutes later via my Apple TV. Also I don’t currently have a rental service that allows me to rent a movie and watch it while I’m traveling. There have been many times that I would like to have had the option of renting a movie, downloading it to my MacBook Pro and watching it on the flight home.
Apple could get my business, but here’s what it will take to get it all…
I really want to like Apple TV, but the biggest thing it’s missing (besides rental/HD content) is 5.1 surround sound (at least with the current content). This is a deal breaker for my home theater. So unless they come out with a new box or a firmware upgrade that adds it, it won’t ever be my first choice for watching a feature film on. Of course we have to also consider High Def. With Netflix if the movie I want is available on Blu-ray or HD DVD, that’s what they automatically send me. So I get to enjoy the movie rental (at no additional cost) at the highest possible quality with DVD extras (not a big deal to me, but some enjoy the extras). If Apple offers HD movie rentals my only concern will be the download size. Granted they could stream it directly to Apple TV so that you can start watching a few minutes after the download/stream starts so it may not be an issue, but what if I just want to rent a movie and watch it on my iPhone? Then an HD version would be a waste. So it would be great to be able to choose between standard def and HD for rentals.
Rumor has it that a New Apple TV is coming. Let’s hope it does the job. Once the hardware problem is solved, the next problem will be content. Steve has been doing a good job in rallying the movie houses, so this probably won’t be a problem. A large catalog of movies will be the key though.
Now let’s get to the really important stuff: Terms and Pricing. The $3.99/rental price has been kicked around. That’s not a bad price, however it would have to be that or less. Anything over $4 and you aren’t price competitive anymore. If I download a rental how long will I have to watch it before it disintegrates? With Amazon’s Unbox, you have 30 days to start watching it. Once you start watching it, you have 24 hours to finish watching it. So far this hasn’t been an issue. So Apple would at least need to match these terms.
I would really like to see the Netflix approach as an option as to where I pay a monthly price for all I can watch.
A killer iTunes movie rental service would be:
- New or upgraded (don’t screw 1st gen buyers – Steve you promised updates along the way) Apple TV featuring 5.1 surround sound and 1080p resolution
- A LARGE collection of titles with streaming trailers
- HD Content as an option!
- Liberal terms: 30 days to start watching/24 hours to finish
- Decent pricing: $3.99 or less per movie/a monthly subscription option
- Performance! It can’t take forever for the movies to download or stream.
- Watch on any device: Apple TV, Mac/PC, iPod/iPhone, etc.
None of the above is rocket science and Apple could easily pull this off. So let’s hope that I have a new rental service to use next week!