How the iTunes Rental model has to change to succeed

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With Apple’s delay of the AppleTV update, I’m stuck watching this copy of “The Simpsons Movie” on my wife’s iPhone if I want to actually watch the thing. This experience with the iTunes rental process has made it very clear to me that if Apple is going to succeed with this they’re going to have to give it a “take 2”.

The first problem with the iTunes rental model is clear. 24 hours. It’s a problem with ALL the current online rental models that I’m aware of, so this one isn’t an Apple exclusive, but it is a problem that is going to have to be fixed if there is any chance of this succeeding. Like a lot of people today, I very rarely have 2 hours (or more) to commit to a movie these days. What I like to do is what a movie over the span of a day or two in the 30 minutes or so that I have the spare time to commit to it. That, of course, is impossible with the iTunes rentals model as it stands now.

There are two other current rental models in my area that I can compare it to.

The first is my local video store. I hate the place. Long lines, employees that don’t seem to know how to operate the buttons on their shirts, much less the scanners required to scan the movies. The only good thing about the place is that all the rentals are for 5 days. If you don’t bring it back on the 5th day, it’s re-rented to you for another 5 days. It’s not a bad deal. I get plenty of time to watch my movie. Now, the rentals are $5 – so isn’t not cheap…it’s basically $1 a day.

The second option in my area is the Redbox. Redbox is the current king of rentals for me because I have 3 different Redboxes within immediate driving distance. None of them are more than 5 minutes away, and I can go onto, find the movie I want, then drive to whichever box has it, and pick it up. It costs me $1 a day. If I can watch the flick that night, I’m only out a buck. If I need to keep it a few more days, I pay for it. It’s the greatest rental experience possible right now.

And it’s the perfect model for iTunes.

$1 = 1 day. If I need to keep the thing for a week, let me keep it for a week. Redbox has it figured out. The only negative to Redbox is the whole “actually leaving the house” thing – but I will gladly stop by the Redbox 100 times before I’m going to rent 1 movie from iTunes that I won’t be able to finish in the time allowed.

The second major problem with the rentals in iTunes are that, apparently, no one even considered a two Mac house hold when planning this idiotic DRM scheme. I should be able to move this rental over to my iPhone, AND my wife’s iPhone…maybe I’ll concede that after moving it onto one, I can’t movie it onto the other….maybe…but why on earth, especially when we’re talking about the SAME iTunes account here, can’t I watch the rental on my iPhone?

It makes no sense. Even if you create a seperate user on the host Mac, and log in, so that you can access two iPhones on one machine, I STILL can’t move the rental over, because it doesn’t show up. It’s sitting right there on the hard drive taking up space, but I can’t use it.

It’s annoying.

What it leaves us with is a rental system that is going to have to consider a multi-Mac household, and is going to have to give us more time to watch these movies. Otherwise, this model simply will not work. At least, that’s what I think. What about you?

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Kokou Adzo

Kokou Adzo is a stalwart in the tech journalism community, has been chronicling the ever-evolving world of Apple products and innovations for over a decade. As a Senior Author at Apple Gazette, Kokou combines a deep passion for technology with an innate ability to translate complex tech jargon into relatable insights for everyday users.

15 thoughts on “How the iTunes Rental model has to change to succeed

  1. I agree with earlier posters that watching a 2h movie in 30 minute increments over two days is a bad way to watch a movie, and in any event you could always rent the movie a second time (total $6) for those times when you don’t quite finish it within 24h … so you’re actually still ahead of the video rental place you hate.

    More importantly: the rental UI in iTunes is currently very bad. It’s very hard to find stuff, filter movies by whether they’re rentable, and will only get harder if their library gets anywhere near as big as Netflix (90k titles). If you search for “Robert DeNiro” in iTunes it won’t show you “Ronin”.

    Finally — NetFlix seems to me to be much better than RedBox from your description. But, frankly, iTunes (assuming some fairly simple UI improvements) with Netflix’s library would defeat all comers. iTunes with NetFlix’s UI features (e.g. useful review system, ability to predict and recommend stuff based on your taste, ability to queue stuff for rental that hasn’t come out yet) would be truly excellent.

  2. > I’m stuck watching this copy of The Simpsons Movie on my wife’s iPhone

    > I very rarely have 2 hours (or more) to commit to a movie these days. What I like to do is what a movie over the span of a day or two in the 30 minutes or so that I have the spare time to commit to it

    I only say this because I care: This is not how to watch a movie. This is like eating a Christmas dinner off styrofoam plates while driving a car. You *think* you’re experiencing the movie, but you’re not.

  3. @boxlight

    That’s a matter of opinion. I get that from movie buff’s all the time, but for me – it’s my preferred way of watching most movies. I’m “experiencing” movies just fine, thanks.

  4. I rented a movie over the weekend, and at the time of rental I did not know that I could not watch it on my AppleTV. I was not happy to say the least. I was actually furious enough to complain to Apple. My complaint was that I did not think that the fact the rental will not play on an AppleTV until the update comes out had been publicized. Surprisingly, Apple wrote back and said that they would refund my purchase.

  5. Wait for the obvious DRM crack to come out. Download and pay for the movie but keep it for as long as you want.

    Breaking the law yes but you are still paying for the movie and will probabbly still only watch it once or twice…

  6. I have difficulty understanding the whole rental craze anyway. At any one given time there’s about a squinjillion companies actually falling all over themselves to be the “one provider of digital content into the home”. Like somehow, if they actually achieve that, stocks will soar and champagne will fall from the heavens.

    I don’t mind saying – I’m not a fan. If something strikes me as worth watching most times I just try to remember to put it in my netflix queue.
    (Better then half the time I forget that much.)

    As far as AppleTV, it’s going to fail. again. If they really want to make it work, they need to get down off their high horse and make it DVR capable. That simple. Truth be told, if it were a DVR I probably would have ALREADY bought one.

  7. @Tonio

    again, I really wish you guys would stop judging me on how I watch movies. I can watch them however I like, and I like watching them 30 minutes at a time in most cases.

    If it’s s GREAT movie I’ll watch it in one sitting no problem – but 80% of the stuff Hollywood is pumping out is pure crap, and I don’t need to watch it all at once.

    In regards to Netflix vs. Redbox, there is one big difference. I had a Netflix account for about 6 months, and not once did I ever get a new release untiil at least 30 days after it had been released. Netflix was constantly mailing me older catalog titles, and skipping the newest releases. With Redbox, I can hop in the car, drive for 5 minutes, and I have a new release the day it comes out.

    I like Netflix, but I found myself mainly getting old television shows from it, because I couldn’t get new releases. So, for new releases I was still having to go to the Redbox.

    So, for new releases Rebox is infinitely better, but if you don’t care about watching stuff right after it comes out, Netflix is certainly a better value for your money.

    I do completely agree with you that the Netflix UI is great, and I enjoyed their “watch instantly” feature even though the quality sucked and I had to run Windows to use it. If Apple copied that UI it would be a very smart thing to do.

  8. I’d like to point out that you can watch a movie for more than 24 hours. If you pause the movie and come back to it after 24 hours, you can continue to watch it. Unfortunately, I’m not sure you can do anything else but watch that movie. Can’t listen to music, etc. You must watch that movie.

    So, if Apple were to stick with the “pay-per-view”, I’d at least change it so you can’t rent anything else until you either “return” the movie or finish watching it. But I’d let you get to other stuff on your player.

    That said, I agree that the best system is the Redbox one. Rent it for $1 a day. I’d also add that if you hold it more than price of the movie (ie, 10, 13, or 15 days), you own it. Don’t bother returning it.

  9. I normally finish my movies within 24 hours so it works for me. But I think a late fee idea would be quite beneficial to both studios (obviously want more money) and the consumer who wants to keep it longer. I think it would be a great idea, the only downside is there would need to be an initial charge more than $1 because those who watch it quick and only pay $1 will piss off the studios. But I do think its a good idea to have a minor fee for each day longer, you can have digital late fees too 🙂

  10. How we watch our movies is really not the issue. In the real world, there are sometimes interruptions which force us to stop watching, and resume at a later time. This is normal. And convenient. Apple has to understand this. Apple needs to give us movies the way we want them. If they do, we’ll rent them like no tomorrow because it will be easy, convenient, and affordable. A 48 hour rental during the week, and say, a 36 hour rental on weekends. But please do something, 24 hours just doesn’t cut it for anyone with a life.
    And it wouldn’t cost them a dime, if anything they’d make more money.

    Right now, 24 hours is their first offer. (Remember the original IPhone price?)
    I’m sure they’re already considering a change, they’ve seen the negative feedback.

  11. I would like it to be similar to the Netflix system. Get some movies, keep as long as you want. When you delete from computer, you can get more.

  12. “@boxlight

    That’s a matter of opinion. I get that from movie buff’s all the time, but for me – it’s my preferred way of watching most movies. I’m “experiencing” movies just fine, thanks.”

    You’re right, it’s a matter of opinion, but how things are, you’re one in a million, do you think the itunes rental is going to change just for you? 99% of people like to watch movies as a whole, meaning not like you divided in parts, meaning that people will just rent the movie when they can watch it and that’s it. I doubt this will change, however I do hear that crack coming…

  13. oh and how much better is redbox anyways? on top of whatever you’re paying for the hyper-late fees you must be paying, judging by your preference of breaking up movies, you’re adding whatever cost it turns out to be on gas as well… looks like your theory’s rebuked

  14. I have to concur to the first comment. It’s about time to speak against the “fast culture” that we are a part of. Fast food, fast relationships, fast internet (gimme short posts, thank you). I am yet to learn to enjoy the slow lane in traffic, but watching a movie in 30 min segments – that’s pornography.

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