iTunes Rentals getting off to a slow start – is this a bad sign?

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Apple promised us 1,000 rentals in the iTunes store in January, but here we are on March 4th, and the iTunes store has a scant 384 titles available for rent – and only a handful of those are in HD according to Apple Insider.

Some want to blame the studios for the hold up here -but I have to say, I find that particularly hard to believe. Why? Well – look at all the other online rental services – from Amazon to the Xbox, they have thousands of titles ready to go. This is the studios’ preferred method of online distribution…one where they get to own the content and we only get to borrow it. I find it hard to believe that they would hold up the project.

Perhaps there are scaling issues that Apple is addressing to ensure that the content they have is delivered properly and in a quick, efficient manner. I have to say that my HD downloading experience has not been fantastic with the AppleTV, and the “HD” movies aren’t always even in true 720p high-definition.

Apple is not a company that usually fumbles this much publicly, and for some reason the AppleTV seem to be a constant source of problems for them. From the initial release of the device which was delayed, then luke-warmly received, to the current software update which was – again -delayed. Now we’re looking at the movies being delayed as well.

What gives? Why is this particular project proving to be be so difficult for Apple to pull off?

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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.

8 thoughts on “iTunes Rentals getting off to a slow start – is this a bad sign?

  1. Because all the big shot companies are out to screw Apple. It’s like they are all a bunch of babies or something. I mean, freeing music of DRM in Europe but not in Itunes? What, is that to spite Apple? DRM-free music for Amazon, but not Apple. It’s like they want iTunes to look bad so people stop using it. They want Apple/Itunes to slip from the number 2 position.

    The big shots think that Apple/iTunes is becoming a monopoly, so they pull this crap to keep them in check.

    But that’s just my opinion.

  2. Meh. I have difficulty understanding why so many companies think it’s such a gold mine to be the provider-of-digital-content into the home anyway. At any given point if I decide I want a movie there’s got to be five or six options at least. I tried the Itunes rentals thing once, it didn’t leave me swooning. I’m sticking to my guns, if they want to sell apple tv’s in any real number, they need to make them DVR capable.

  3. “I find it hard to believe that they would hold up the project.”

    This is joke right? I suppose you think the 30day/24hr expiration was Apple as well?

    If it was up to Apple, you would have slot based rental system like Netflix, and every movie that had an available digital intermediate would already be up, with every studio’s library up within a year

    It’s not Apple desperately trying to hold on to an old world monopoly in a long tail digital world.

  4. Yeah, the movie rental has been a bit of a hit-or-miss w/ me so far. I’ve watched some movies w/ enjoyment, but others I’m less enthused about I don’t feel like spending the $3 or $4. Netflix still rules here.

    The real hidden jewel I’ve found in the AppleTV is the video podcasts. There are literally hundreds of topics to choose from. It is the ease and enjoyment of watching these podcasts that to me reveals why internet TV is going to be the future. It just allows so much more customization and adaptability to what I want to watch, when I want compared to traditional cable television.

    AppleTV and the like may just be a bit ahead of their times, but in 2 years, I see this being a very big deal. Reminds me of when Airport was released…look at how indispensable wireless is now…just takes time.


  5. Apple, if you’re listening to this: get some serious people running AppleTV. The people who came up with the interface for the iPhone are talented; the people who came up with the interface for both iterations of the AppleTV less so. It’s the details: even the font, Lucida Grande, which is fine for small menus in Mac OS X, is ugly when big on a television. The iPhone people smartly went with Helvetica, deviating from the Mac look when it suited the interface aesthetics. It’s clear the Jobs proteges with taste are not working on the AppleTV.

    Come on Apple, do it right. The AppleTV and iTunes store interfaces are still really pathetic.

  6. I LOVE my AppleTV, I love being able to stream music, podcasts and movies from either my iMac or my daughter’s. Everything looks and sounds fantastic, just as I would expect Apple products to.

    The price of the iTunes rentals is the problem for me. If I want to watch something in HD, I can rent it from Netflix in either HD DVD or Blu-ray formats for the same $8/month I’m already paying. (And I get take advantage of the next gen audio profiles as well, instead of the tired DD5.1 that iTunes is “renting” me.) I can wait 2 days to receive Pirates of the Caribbean on Blu-ray, as opposed to paying $5 to get it now from iTunes.

    Again, this is not Apple’s issue, it’s the studios issue. If they really had any marketing sense in this venue, they would realize they could make huge profits in volume. Drop the price to $0.99 for a std rental and $1.99 for an HD rental and watch how many iTune’s rentals get sold . . . as well as AppleTVs.

    Or better yet, follow a Netflix model and offer 10, 15 or 25 rentals per month for $10 to $20 / month. The studios haven’t stopped Netflix or Blockbuster from renting copies of their movies thousands or times for $8/month, they shouldn’t have a problem with iTunes doing the same thing with digital copies of the same movies.

  7. You know, the average american hates going to movies. They don’t watch that much TV and they spend about four hours a night on the internet hitting all the news sites you can in that amount of time. If Apple is thinking its going to make a bunch of money renting cra*** movies and terrible TV shows then they better get their own entertainment production company and film some shows.

  8. Are you really surprised? Really?
    I’m not at all. Interface is still too difficult to use. Concept is still ambiguous – there are honest-to-goodness people out there – smart, techy people, but who don’t follow Apple at all – who think that the ‘Apple TV’ is an integrated flat panel television screen with a home media server. And that assumption would make sense. Because the name is confusing. And the concept is confusing. And the capabilities are confusing. What is it. Connect my tv to my pc or my pc to another service or itunes to my TV or my iphone to my pc to stream or … what. Or What. Apple lacks a clear message, and, until they get one, really get one, they won’t be able to apply the Apple magic to make it a great product.

    This is to say nothing of the restrictive structure behind the rentals. But, I honestly don’t think that is the problem. If the message behind the product was clear, the software and interface well-designed, the ease-of-use factor perfectly tailored to consumer demands, and the price right, people would not be driven away by studio restrictions on length of time for rental.

    Apple TV … 3.0?

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