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Apple will sell rentals of new 20th Century Fox movies in its iTunes Store, according to unnamed sources of the Financial Times. The deal between Apple and the studio, which is to be announced at Macworld next month, will also reportedly allow for rippable digital versions of films to be included on new Fox DVDs, providing a legal way to transfer movies you own to a computer or portable player.
This is a big deal — while television shows have made great leaps in digital distribution over the last year, movies have lagged. Apple competitors like Amazon and Netflix have developed movie rental and download services, but they are very limited in terms of how users can view and transfer content. After the success of its a la carte music sales, Apple had resisted rentals, but for movies the rental experience makes a lot of sense.
The Financial Times had first reported in June that Apple was “in advanced talks” with movie studios to launch a movie rental service. At the time, the paper said a 30-day rental would go for $2.99. In September, a Mac developer noticed Apple was coding rental options into iTunes.
Apple’s current movie selection is terrible. Paramount, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, and Lionsgate sell older titles and Walt Disney sells both new and old titles. Compared to the six million songs it has in stock, iTunes has about 500 movies and 550 television shows. In October, Apple said it had sold over three billion songs, over two million movies, and 100 million TV shows. However, the company has had trouble getting along with the music labels and television networks that agreed to be its partners, with NBC pulling out its content and Universal Music Group reducing the catalog it sells.