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ITunes' Incomplete Movie-Rental Inventory

When Apple added a video-rental option to its iTunes Store in January, the company said it would "offer over 1,000 titles by the end of February."

Well, it's now early March and I'm glad that I didn't echo that phrasing and instead wrote that the company "plans to offer 1,000 by the end of the month" in my semi-favorable review. As Macworld noted at the end of last week, at most 399 movies were available for rent on iTunes.

I did my own check Monday morning and found just 379 titles listed under the "All Rentals" link in iTunes. But it gets worse--as of noon today, only 196 movies appeared behind that link, which I can only assume is a consequence of some titles exiting the "release window" alloted for their on-demand distribution.

Apple shareholders asked chief executive Steve Jobs about this at the company's annual shareholder meeting. The San Jose Mercury News quoted Jobs as saying "I'm not happy about that":

Jobs blamed the delay on the time it has taken movie studios to get the necessary approvals from various rights holders of particular films to distribute the movies via iTunes. Apple dealt with a similar issue with the record labels in the early days of selling music online, he said.

This does not look like a good start for Apple's venture into video rentals. But the company does seem to be doing one thing right--it's allowing viewers to try out the rental deal for just 99 cents a movie. This cut-rate price is only good from Thursday to Monday, and only one movie qualifies for it each week (the first was the "The Hours," followed last weekend by "The Ghost and the Darkness"). Once rented, the usual rules apply: 30 days to start watching it, 24 hours to finish doing so.

Have you rented many--or any--movies off iTunes? Let me know how that went in the comments...

By Rob Pegoraro  |  March 5, 2008; 3:25 PM ET
Categories:  Video  
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Comments

DRM seems to take the ease and breeze away from what should be a successful business model. Also, I've downloaded other videos from ITUNES and while I was pleased with the quality, the player seemed to lock up constantly when I have a really good hardware set. I prefer divx or xvid files as they demand less system resources and are drm free, for the most part.

Posted by: stgenerations | March 5, 2008 3:54 PM | Report abuse

I was very excited about the movie rentals, then quickly frustrated by the extremely limited selection.

Posted by: Nancy Duggan | March 5, 2008 5:52 PM | Report abuse

I've rented four movies from iTunes. The download times for standard definition movies is fine, but it took 14 hours to download a high definition movie (which I haven't had time to watch). I bought my Apple TV at Best Buy, which has a pretty liberal return policy. I may take it back.

I think the video quality of the standard definition movies is acceptable (and I can play them on my computer or connect my computer to my TV to watch them). Not great, but a decent way to watch a movie when you can't get to the video store.

Now Apple needs to do something about the number of titles in the iTunes Store.

Posted by: Alexandria | March 5, 2008 6:58 PM | Report abuse

It would be nice if the title of this and every article mentioning this was "Studios screw another movie rental service"

Posted by: Yev | March 5, 2008 8:52 PM | Report abuse

I have rented three movies from the iTunes Store, including the forementioned 99 cents offerrings. (The first was "Breakfast at Tiffany's," but I missed it). I downloaded the rentals directly to my MacBook Air, which I intend to use only for emphemeral video to save space.

I also purchased my first DVD with a digital copy included last week.

Posted by: Podesta | March 6, 2008 12:00 AM | Report abuse

Sorry, I'm busy renting movies on my VUDU. I've got almost 4,000 or so that I can rent, and just over 5,000 total. It's sad that AppleTV keeps getting all the ink. Oh, and VUDU delivered the HD movies they promised when they promised them. The Apple fanboys are still making excuses for the ATV delays, and 2.0's slowdowns and other issues.

Posted by: The Cosmic Avenger | March 6, 2008 12:24 PM | Report abuse

I've rented 4 HD movies on Apple TV. They were ready to start viewing in 3 to 13 minutes, and the quality was great. In fact they are better than bluray movies on my PS3 (which got blocky on the 1080p setting). I think the real advance here is the HD movie quality available relatively quickly on demand. I would like to see more movies but I have not yet had time to rent all the HD movies that are currently available and that I'd like to see. So I'm pretty pleased with Apple TV.

Posted by: Bill | March 6, 2008 1:36 PM | Report abuse

Cosmic Avenger is right. The media has such a crush on Apple, that the Vudu appliance, which works seamlessly, has been almost totally ignored. Perhaps Saturday Night Live should do a skit on this...

Posted by: Jiji Nakaba | March 7, 2008 5:55 AM | Report abuse

The Apple TV and movie rentals, especially the HD ones, look as good as any HD-DVD on my projector in my home theater. As soon as they have more selection of movie titles on iTunes, I intend to stop using Netflix. It takes time to build the inventory, so it does nothing to complain about it.

As an early adopter to Netflix, it also took them time to build their catalog, so people should stop complaining and get real.

Posted by: George | March 7, 2008 11:10 AM | Report abuse

From what I have read, much of the content on Vudu is throwaway. The strategy seems to have been to get their numbers up by tossing whatever on there. I am hoping for a qualitaive difference at the iTunes Store.

Posted by: Podesta | March 8, 2008 12:18 AM | Report abuse

I have rented twice with iTunes Movie Rental, and have had the movies crash twice for a 1.000 batting average. This last one actually crashed on launching, so not even one frame made it. Troubleshooting tips don't work, and after a long download it can be infuriating. I haven't had one problem with purchasing TV shows, so I can only assume the entire rental product has serious technical defects. The only positive I can say is that Apple refunded my purchase.

Posted by: CPRoyale | March 9, 2008 4:04 PM | Report abuse

We all know that this is new, so give Apple (actually the movie studios) sometime to add more titles, as with everything Apple this rocks! I love it, I have DL 5 HD movies and the quality and sound are amazing, and way better than with my PS3, for those of you who have slow connections=> upgrade to a faster one!....and the trick btw is DL and start watching way later or the day the after, I DL 3 HD movies at the same time and the next morning they were all there and ready to watch in full HD and dlby prologic 5.1! this sure beats Blockbuster, netflix etc... Oh btw I just cancelled my Blockbuster subscription ;)

Posted by: Spacesurfr | March 10, 2008 10:20 AM | Report abuse

I've rented two movies. One through iTunes and one through Apple TV. I played both on the Apple TV -- didn't try to play them on iTunes.

The movies played well. I have not yet rented any HD titles as of yet though.

The process seemed to work fairly flawlessly for the Movie rentals; although, I have had sporadic problems with TV show purchases on the Apple TV failing to play with an authorization problem of some sort or "This content is currently being updated please try again late" error. In both cases, a power cycle of the Apple TV resolved the issue.

Posted by: Jeff G. | March 10, 2008 4:30 PM | Report abuse

The download process has been fine, but the selection is inadequate. Until it's better there is little reason to bother with Itunes rentals.

Posted by: DR | April 6, 2008 11:48 PM | Report abuse

I rented a movie in itunes last night it was my first movie rental and when it went to play it was choppy. I was more than upset because it was frustrating to watch the movie than enjoyable.

Posted by: Thetoothfairy | April 18, 2008 12:05 PM | Report abuse

I like Apple TV and have been enjoying using it before they even offered rentals.

But I just noticed last night that the film "Ratatouille" is no longer listed as a rental option... but it was one of the first ones to be offered (and advertised by Apple) as available for rental!

This disturbs me because it implies that the selection is completely transitory and thus not a good option for the consumer... i.e. it sucks.

Is this the way it's going to be? "Hey, come to our online rental store where we might have the film you're looking for! Who knows? We may have it, we may not... we don't even know!"

This is a very disappointing turn of events for me.

Does anyone else have any info on what this means for the consumer?

Posted by: JN | April 21, 2008 8:13 PM | Report abuse

I like Apple TV and have been enjoying using it before they even offered rentals.

But I just noticed last night that the film "Ratatouille" is no longer listed as a rental option... but it was one of the first ones to be offered (and advertised by Apple) as available for rental!

This disturbs me because it implies that the selection is completely transitory and thus not a good option for the consumer... i.e. it sucks.

Is this the way it's going to be? "Hey, come to our online rental store where we might have the film you're looking for! Who knows? We may have it, we may not... we don't even know!"

This is a very disappointing turn of events for me.

Does anyone else have any info on what this means for the consumer?

Posted by: JN | April 21, 2008 8:13 PM | Report abuse

I like Apple TV and have been enjoying using it before they even offered rentals.

But I just noticed last night that the film "Ratatouille" is no longer listed as a rental option... but it was one of the first ones to be offered (and advertised by Apple) as available for rental!

This disturbs me because it implies that the selection is completely transitory and thus not a good option for the consumer... i.e. it sucks.

Is this the way it's going to be? "Hey, come to our online rental store where we might have the film you're looking for! Who knows? We may have it, we may not... we don't even know!"

This is a very disappointing turn of events for me.

Does anyone else have any info on what this means for the consumer?

Posted by: JN | April 21, 2008 8:16 PM | Report abuse

The comments to this entry are closed.

 
 
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