Twentieth Century Fox actually has two deals with Apple (NSDQ: AAPL) that Steve Jobs announced today with Fox Filmed Entertainment CEO Jim Gianopulos. A lot is being made of the video rentals, more on that in a bit. But we’ll start with a look at the DVD-download combo; the Apple version is only available for now with Fox. Fox first tried it with Windows on Live Free or Die Hard. Buyers get a digital version on the second disk of special editions; it can be uploaded to a computer and moved to portable devices. In iTunes’ case, the Digital Copy file goes straight to iTunes and can be used with only one iTunes library; it can be used on a PC or Mac, video iPods, iPhone or Apple TV.
This year, according to a spokesman, the News Corp (NYSE: NWS). studio hopes to issue around 40 titles that include Digital Copy for iTunes and Windows’ DRM (formerly known as Plays For Sure). (I’ve heard PSP might be added to the two.) The first, announced and released today: Family Guy Special Edition. The next, for iTunes videophiles keeping track, will be Hitman in March. No word yet on Alvin & the Chipmunks.
How it works: *Amazon* tells buyers: “This DVD allows for a free transfer of the film to a computer or portable media player, then links to an explanation of how it works. The basics: insert second disk, launch transfer app (which verifies that computer meets the requirements), enter a 16-digit code (from an insert in the packaging), select destination of either PC or portable media player. The lingo has not yet been updated for Apple — it says that video iPods aren’t supported. It also links to the Fox Digital Copy site , which does recognize iTunes as well as Windows. Here it gets a little confusing again: “At this time, Digital Copy is only available to transfer to Windows PlaysForSure devices and Apple iTunes.” What’s unclear is how many times the iTunes video can be synced and to what devices. It appears as though Apple users may have more flexibility than Windows users but it’s really not clear. If you could see me now, I’m shaking my head. It sounds so easy when execs talk about the possibilities but it’s still kludgy. Basically, this could make rentals look preferable. (Yes, I know, you can download software that makes moving DVDs to portables easy but most people just want it to work.)
Video rentals: But wait, the rentals come with their own hangups: the cost, the 30-day window after DVD release — no day and date for Apple this time, the 24-hour expiration date, the smallish library. Heaven forbid you get interrupted and try to come back 25 hours later. The cost is the least issue — at $2.99-$4.99 it’s still less than most movie tickets and comparable to pay-per-view at home. But, despite every major studio’s involvement (a major accomplishment), only 1,000 titles or so — 100 HD — are slated for availability by the end of February. Plus: good for impulse viewing and should be capital E easy.
Digital Copy release; Apple TV/Movie Rental release.