Thank God! Now we can watch Alvin and the Chipmunks on iTunes
News Corp.’s Twentieth Century Fox will become the first movie studio to make its movies available to rent on Apple’s iTunes service, the two companies are set to announce at MacWorld in San Francisco on Jan. 14.
The story first broke today in the Financial Times. Disney – on whose board sits Steve Jobs, Apple’s innovative CEO – is the only other studio to offer newly released movies on iTunes, and only to buy. Paramount, MGM and Lionsgate sell some of their older library titles on the service, according to The FT.
Some of Fox’s movies include Alvin and the Chipmunks (which did surprising box office in my opinion because I wouldn’t see that if you paid me. Well, depends on how much you paid me. But it would have to be a lot), Hitman, The Devil Wears Prada, Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium, and so forth. It’s interesting that Fox is doing this just as NBC is removing itself from iTunes. As you recall, NBC and Fox have a joint portal partnership in Hulu.com that presumably also will sell and rent video content. But since many studios’ approach is to make their content as ubiquitously available as possible, it makes sense to put content on arguable the Internet’s most well-known online store and see how it goes.
So far, people haven’t really responded to the notion of purchasing movies on iTunes. I don’t think people associate iTunes with movies yet. Plus, movies take a long time to download; it’s far easier to just pop in a DVD and call it a day. With regard to Fox, people will be able to rent Fox’s movies from iTunes for a limited time, just like when you rent a movie from Blockbuster and then have to bring it back the next day. (Remember having to do that?)
That said, I’m finding – through yet another extensive focus group conducted among my friends – that people are beginning to like the convenience of watching movies and TV programs online if the service suits them. Several of my friends say they have started to watch TV shows and movies on demand almost exclusively on Netflix. The service offers anywhere from five to 48 hours of online, on-demand programming per month – according to the level of your subscription – along with the DVDs that they send you in the mail. It’s pretty cool to think, “gee, I would really like to watch Broadcast News for the 28th time. Hey look, it’s right here on Netflix.” Click and play.
I understand that Netflix’ player has gotten more user-friendly – allowing for pausing, fast-forwarding and rewinding – although it still only works in Internet Explorer 6 and not in my preferred Firefox. All that would be particularly helpful if say, I wanted to spend New Year’s weekend re-watching season three of Lost in one obsessive binge, but that seven CD-disc isn’t available for “anytime watching” yet. Oh well.
As for iTunes, I don’t think it will become much of a force in this area until it can offer a comprehensive library of new and old movies at very reasonable prices. The fewer obstacles any online video service puts in the consumer’s path, the better.