SAN FRANCISCO (AFP) — Apple launched an online movie rental service on Tuesday, banking that its ubiquitous iPods and iPhones will let it break into a market dominated by Blockbuster and Netflix.
"Today we introduce iTunes Movie Rentals," Apple's chief executive Steve Jobs said at the opening of the annual Macworld Expo in San Francisco.
The list of studios that will make films available for online rental via iTunes includes Sony, Universal, Paramount, Walt Disney, Warner Brothers, and 20th Century Fox.
Older films will rent for 2.99 dollars and new releases will rent for 3.99 dollars, according to Jobs. The service will launch with more than 1,000 titles by the end of February, Jobs said.
"We are rolling this out in the US starting today and internationally later this year," Jobs said. "We are dying to get this international as well."
People will be able to view films on any make of home computer as well as on video-enabled iPods and iPhones. After downloading rented films, people will have 30 days to begin watching them.
Once someone has started watching a film, they can view it as many times as they want for 24 hours.
"We've never offered a rental model in music because we think people don't want to rent their favorite music, they want to own it," Jobs said. "But, your favorite movie you watch maybe once."
ITunes sold its four billionth song last week, and set a new one-day record on Christmas Day, selling 20 million songs online, according to Apple.
The company reports selling approximately seven million movies and 125 million television shows through iTunes to date.
Jobs also announced a revamped Apple TV model that links directly to the Internet, bypassing computers, and plays movies rented online. High density films for Apple TV viewing will be available for a dollar more per rental.
"Apple has created an incredibly easy and innovative way to rent and enjoy movies," said Jim Gianopulos, chairman and chief executive officer of Fox Filmed Entertainment, in an Apple statement.
An iTunes movie rental service backed by film studios and Apple TV software that takes computers out of the viewing equation combine into a powerful offering from the company, Creative Strategies analyst Tim Bajarin told AFP.
"When Steve came to us it was a no-brainer," Gianopulos said. "There have been VOD (video on demand) models before, but Apple's will be transformative."
Apple also cut the price of Apple TV, which has had disappointing sales, to 229 dollars.
"With the free software upgrade, Apple TV has gone from a computer extender to a smart front-end of the television," Bajarin said. "It's what people want, a simple way to access online movies right from the couch."
The combination of Apple TV and iTunes movie rentals could cause the market for such "television adapters to take-off," according to Bajarin.
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