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With Physical Rental Windows Becoming The Norm, Are Online Rentals Next?

On April 23rd, the DVD rental kiosk company Redbox announced that it had signed deals with Universal Studios Home Video and 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment to withhold films from both studios from its system until 28 days after the on sale date.  The first film from Universal under this deal is It’s Complicated, and for 20th Century it is Avatar.  These two studios join with Warner Brothers which had already struck a similar deal with the DVD rental company.

DVD rental by mail retailer Netflix has struck similar deals with movie studios as of late, much to the chagrin of many people in the blogosphere.

it's complicatedOne of the arguments people have made is that you can go on to iTunes and rent films the same day as they come out on DVD, so why should they have to wait for Netflix and Redbox to get the films?  And that got me to thinking, which is always a dangerous thing, that online rentals are probably next on the hit list for the Hollywood studios.

The whole reason that the studios have been seeking out these rental windows is because sales of DVDs dropped by 15 percent last year, and they blamed it on the ease of rentals from things like Redbox and Netflix.  (course, I’m sure on another day they blamed it on piracy … they can’t quite seem to make up their minds)  So if people can’t be patient enough to get it through those companies, and they start renting them from places like iTunes, then doesn’t logic dictate that those will be the next companies the studios start cutting deals with?

I know that not all movies are available for immediate rental through iTunes, but taking a look at the newest releases, I see that Avatar is only purchase-only at the moment, while  It’s Complicated, which is part of the new Redbox deal, is up for rental.  Of course we all know that Steve Jobs likes to think that he is the one that gets to dictate terms, and he does quite often get his way, but if Hollywood is serious about changing the way rentals work to save the sales division, then it only makes sense that Apple and other companies will be getting a talking to fairly soon.

I’m sure that Apple will continue to be able to sell films day-and-date with the DVDs, but it’s looking to me like all rentals will eventually move to this 28-day window, including on demand offerings from cable and satellite providers.  The movie studios aren’t going to be able to sustain two different rental tracks because eventually those that are on the delay will complain about the drop in their business, and the studios will finally get annoyed with those outlets ordering less copies.

So, enjoy renting stuff on iTunes the day it comes out on DVD for now, but I wouldn’t expect it to be around for a whole lot longer.

What do you think?  Are all rentals going to move to this four week delay?


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Sean P. Aune

Sean P. Aune has been a professional technology blogger since July 2007, but his love of tech dates back to at least 1976 when his parents bought...Sean P. Aune has been a professional technology blogger since July 2007, but his love of tech dates back to at least 1976 when his parents bought...


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