Early Film Rentals May Hit iTunes Soon

The future of film distribution, long overdue some would say, could finally be arriving soon as Bloomberg reports that much earlier film rentals may be coming to iTunes with major blockbusters potentially hitting the service as early as two weeks after films open in cinemas.

Apple Inc. is said to be pressing Hollywood studios for earlier access to movies and three of the big six studios – 20th Century Fox, Warners Bros. Pictures and Universal Pictures – have all confirmed in the past week that they plan to look into offering high-priced, home-video rentals of new movies shortly after they open in cinemas.

As a result, talks are underway for a potential iTunes deal which the company has been pushing forward with for a while. While Apple Music has been a big success, its film and TV offerings on iTunes remain only a player in a market dominated by SVOD services like Netflix & Hulu, and a step behind its main competitor Amazon. A deal like this could help change that and make iTunes stand out in a crowded online market.

iTunes already has an established, well-known and secure infrastructure in place and currently offers premium priced day-and-date rentals on smaller titles. This would simply add an earlier option on all the other films which normally don’t go up on the service until 2-3 weeks before the Blu-ray release. The price point for these new premium rentals is said to likely lie somewhere between $25 to $50.

With cinema attendance mostly stagnant and home-video revenue flat in some areas and falling in others, studios are struggling to find areas of new growth as the market shifts towards the future of digital distribution faster than exhibitors would like. Of course the studios could also end up choosing another technology platform to deliver such a service, but estimates are that we’ll see a premium film digital distribution offering of some kind within the next 12-18 months.

Earlier availability is also being pitched as a piracy deterrent for those downloading films due to lack of access to titles – especially ones that don’t get to screens outside a handful of major U.S. cities.