Sony looks to copy Apple’s iTunes model for movies

Michael Arrieta, senior vice president of Sony Pictures, said at a US Digital Hollywood conference that it wanted to copy the iTunes model and apply it to movies. “We want to set business models, pricing models, distribution models like (Apple Computer CEO Steve) Jobs did for music, but for the film industry,” said Michael Arrieta in an interview with CNET News.

Sony plans to digitize their top 500 films and make them available in a variety of formats, including flash memory for mobile phones, in 2006.

“Sony’s plans–and similar moves by other studios–are likely to avoid empowering any one technology company–such as Apple in the music equation–and allow studios to pocket more of the profits,” Stefanie Olsen writes for CNET News.

Full article here.


  1. Will Apple will miss out on this? That would be too bad. Who wants to go to 5 different sites to buy movies. That would be like going to Double Day to buy their books and Simon and Shuster to buy their books, etc.

  2. If any of the rumors of Apple’s TV/Movie/Video/HDTV plans are true, Sony may have an interesting fight ahead of them. Apple may be well along on design and implementation of a similar system I wonder if Sony or Apple would be more successful swaying studios to their technology. Sony has somewhat of an edge with the control of its own studio. Do you think the player of choice will be a mac mini, windows media center, or dedicated (Sony) device?

    Did anyone see the movie ‘Antitrust’? Let’s hope of OSS programmers get killed for their media-delivery software…

  3. in response to CampusComputerStoreGuy:

    my guess is that the studios would prefer to work with Apple. Sony is probably going to use a proprietary system like it is using with the PSP. whereas I think Apple’s H.264 system is a completely open format. I would also imagine that the other studios wouldn’t like Sony to own their own studio AND have a lot of control over the distribution of everyone else’s material as well. That seems to be too much control or power for one company to have.

    Sony may have an advantage in the sense of having a large catalog of movies that they can convert to their digital format, but in the long run, I think Apple will come out on top. Apple is probably almost finished with a distribution channel and software combination that is superior to anything Sony can create. Plus, iTunes customers would probably stick with Apple, whereas Sony doesn’t really the same customer loyalty.

  4. I think the fact that Sony says that they want to do what Apple did implies that Apple isn’t currently already doing it for movies. Which is fine, because there won’t be a single market entity for this like the iPod. The player/format/store model worked once for music, but won’t work now for movies.

    Also, I think Apple’s success far exceeded everyone’s expectations, and they are afraid of it now. No one wants to invite the 400 pound gorilla to the next party if they can find a way to keep it out.

  5. I would have to guess they’d rather work with Apple. They may fight piracy, etc, together, but Sony is a competitor to the other studios, and nobody in their right mind would want to give that kind of an advantage to a competitor. They’d rather do the same thing themselves, which wouldn’t work because consumers aren’t going to accept going to twelve different stores to get the movies they want. Most people probably don’t even know what company released the movie they’re looking for. What will most likely happen is that Sony will follow a similar track to what they did with their music catalog: build their own store with a proprietary format and also open their catalog to iFlicks, or whatever it will be called, and other similar services, so as not to be the only one left out. Then they’ll realize that nobody wants their service or likes their file standards and try, but fail, to make it more like the leading standard. But I just don’t see digital movie distribution taking off yet. We’re too far away from the pieces necessary to make it a good experience for users. For one thing, movies are much bigger files than songs, and are going to cost a lot more. They won’t be the impulse buys that songs often are. Digital music services offer the advantage of being able to get a single song rather than a whole CD, but there is no equivilant in the movie world. And you can get an excellent audio experience listening to your music files on the computer or taking them with you on an iPod, but that won’t work for movies. Nobody wants to watch a movie on their computer screen, which is bound to be smaller than their TV, especially with the huge industry that home theaters have beome these days. Are you going to shell out a few thousand bucks for a huge TV, surround sound, etc, and then watch movies on your monitor? And forget about getting a good experience taking video with you… Until there is an appliance that can connect directly to your TV to store these films, this won’t take off. I could see a semi-successful version of a rental subscription service, like the movie-by-mail services around now, because some people would be willing to sacrifice screen size for the ability to get any movie at a moments (or a couple hours, really) notice. Digital video is coming, but we just aren’t there yet, in my opinion.

  6. The PSP isn’t proprietary, it’s MPEG4 Simple Profile using the H.263 codec, just as open as MPEG4 using the H.264 format. Any program that can encode to that can create video for the PSP AND the resulting video can also be played using QuickTime (which supports the standard). Don’t believe everything PC users (who have been bastardizing .AVI for years!) tell you.

    Big difference between other companies and Apple? Other companies TELL people how they’re going to do something in a year. Apple works on it, gets it close to perfection, then releases it. Think about it, how many “music” companies were talking about what they were going to do before iTunes came out and then decided not to do anything? You don’t have to hide your ideas when they SUCK ” width=”19″ height=”19″ alt=”smile” style=”border:0;” />

  7. Justin,
    (To clarify my earlier post) While the PSP can play different formats for videos and music, what I meant to say (which can often be different from what I actually say) is that Sony will probably force the consumer to use the proprietary format that it uses for its Universal Media Discs (UMD). An example is how the Spiderman 2 movie comes with the PSP. I’m guessing Sony will stick with that format.

  8. As to content for an Apple iVideo store, lets not forget Steve Job’s “other” day-job – CEO of Pixar.

    Now, how would this be a way to kick-off the Apple video store – each week offer an exclusive Pixar short for free/cheap? Heck, continuing serials, anyone?

  9. shempzilla –

    I think there will be a huge market for an on-demand video store similar to itunes.

    For example – For months I have been wanting to watch the BBC – UK version of the series “The Office” that everyone raves about. It is finally showing in April – but for a long time – it was not scheduled at all. Bummer – I’ve spent a week off for spring break and I could have watched it this week. There are other documentaries from BBC, PBS, etc – that I would like to watch – but aren’t scheduled for a long time. Even with TiVo – it has to be scheduled to air for me to record and watch it. There is a great Wired article called “The Long Tail” ( ) which says Amazon, NetFlix – make most of their money from selling books and DVDs that appeal to a small group of people and are not economical for the local book-store, video store, etc to stock.

    Video compression is making a lot of headway. ( ) Broadband services are getting faster. And it can’t be that hard to get video from your computer to your TV.

  10. My cable bill is $45/month – a total rip-off for basic cable – IMO. Add to that the (on average) $15/month I spend renting movies – and I spend $60/month for a pretty lousy entertainment experience. There HAS to be a better way!

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