Would you be willing to pay $25 to rent Justice League or Jurassic World 2 on iTunes from the comfort of your home while the movies are still in theaters? That very well may be something that is possible by the time those movies come out. It turns out Apple is in negotiations with several major movie studios to gain access to new movies in order to have them available for rent much earlier than they currently are.
The news comes courtesy of Bloomberg who simply cited "people with knowledge of the matter" as their source for this information. That said, it doesn't sound at all surprising. Apple is big on capitalizing on new ideas whenever they can and they tend to be early to adopt emerging technologies, media and consumer access. They were one of the first companies to make it easy for people to get podcasts and they also revolutionized digital music in the early 2000s when iTunes launched. So why not revolutionize movie rentals as well? Apple is reportedly in talks specifically with 20th Century Fox, Warner Bros. and Universal Pictures.
As it stands, iTunes will typically be allowed to give their users access to movies about 90 days after their initial theatrical release. Assuming they can work out a deal that allows for that time period to be dramatically shortened, it will most definitely come at a cost. How much that cost will be or the specific time period that Apple is aiming for is unclear, but movie studios are trying to find new ways to capitalize on their big releases and this could be a way to do it, but only if the consumer is willing to pay a premium to watch something like Deadpool 2 from the comfort of their couch on their iPad, instead of at a crowded movie theater on opening weekend.
Bloomberg also reported recently that several major studios, such as Warner Bros. and Universal, have been having ongoing, preliminary conversations with major theater chains to try and negotiate a new on-demand model that would allow big movies to be available to consumers much sooner than they are currently. The problem is that theater chains are reluctant because that could wind up hurting their business. The studios are reportedly aiming to charge anywhere between $25 and $50 for these early rentals, should a deal get worked out. That should give some idea of what iTunes would be charging if Apple can make something happen. Head of Warner Bros. Kevin Tsujihara had this to say about it.
"We're working with them to try and create a new window. But regardless of whether it happens or not -- whether we are able to reach that agreement with them, we have to offer consumers more choices earlier."
It is clear that pretty much everyone wants some form of change in the near future and it all has to do with money. It is simply too expensive and too much of a hassle for some people to go to a movie theater these days, but if the movie were available to rent from home, studios like Warner Bros. may be able to find a new revenue stream and Apple could clean up on premium rental fees. But studios still rely on box office way too much, so if theater chains don't want to play ball, this won't happen anytime soon. Ultimately, this will probably come at a cost to the moviegoer. Either via a premium rental fee or a more expensive movie ticket, because theaters will need to make up the difference. For now, it looks like these talks are pretty preliminary, but don't be surprised to see a deal get worked out in the relatively near future. Especially now that Apple is involved, and they are known for making mainstream innovation happen above all else.