Does Apple face delivery issue if they want to sell movies via iTunes Store?

Apple Store“Since Apple unveiled its iTunes Music Store in spring 2003, bloggers have batted around the idea that the company chose the name cleverly — because ‘Music’ could be changed easily to ‘Media’ when it started selling online movies. Three years later, although movies have not yet appeared on the iTunes site, it has sold more than 15 million digitized TV shows and videos (for $1.99 a pop), with the blessing of ABC, Disney, Showtime, NBC, MTV, and other providers,” Daniel Turner writes for Technology Review.

“Not surprisingly, then, the success of these online TV shows and videos has accelerated speculation about movies. Last week, Variety, Forbes, and MSNBC all ran stories about rights and pricing negotiations between Apple and the major movie studios. The consensus: It’s just a matter of time before iTunes starts selling feature-length movies, if not this year, then in 2007,” Turner writes.

“For Internet video distributors, though, the Motion Picture Association of America has been a tougher nut to crack than television studios, because the film industry is more concerned about piracy,” Turner writes. “Aside from the wrangling over copyright and digital-rights management, though, technical problems also stand in the way of an iTunes Movie Store. Actually, it’s one key technical issue. While Apple already has a high-profile storefront, marketing mechanism, and suitable file format for delivering movies, figuring out how to deliver these massive, multi-gigabyte files remains a challenge.”

Turner writes, “…Even with H.264 compression, an entire movie would amount to well over one gigabyte and take an entire evening to download at the 1.5-megabits-per-second maximum cable or DSL modem speed available to most Internet users in the United States…”

Full article here.

[Thanks to MacDailyNews Reader “LinuxGuy” for the heads up.]

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Related articles:
Warner Bros. to distribute movies on – June 27, 2006
BusinessWeek: Apple agreement with movie studios for iTunes Store unlikely any time soon – June 21, 2006
Apple prepares debut of full-length feature films via iTunes Store in time for 2006 holiday season – June 20, 2006
Report: Movie studios flatly reject Apples’ proposed $9.99 pricing for feature films via iTunes – June 19, 2006
Report: Apple in negotiations with movie studios; $9.99 feature films coming to iTunes soon? – June 19, 2006
Disney to sell movies over Internet via CinemaNow in Windows Media Video format – June 05, 2006
Warner Bros. to sell movies and TV shows via BitTorrent – May 09, 2006
Universal launches film download/DVD service in UK – March 23, 2006
If Front Row can stream movie trailers from Apple, why not whole movies? – January 06, 2006
BusinessWeek: Movie studios need to smarten up and let Apple sell their movies – or be left behind – October 18, 2005
Universal to put its movies online – October 06, 2005


  1. hmm. Episodes (~12) of “firefly” took about 10 minutes to download via Roadrunner cable, and although not “HD” by any means look pretty darn good on our 47″ DLP. Thats about 10 hours of video. . . If the resolution was 10X better, I imagine a 2 hour movie would take 20 minutes. So I don’t see the point- for most people that would be fantastic.

    I don’t get folks b#tch@ng about the video quality being good only for iPods. . . Most of them, I suspect, haven’t tried it on a bigger screen. Of 6 members of our family all have actually been impressed by how good it actually looks on a big screen. I think we are representative of the average American shmucks. . . .

  2. I’ve never bought any video online, so I always wondered about this myself. It seems that you are either going to get lower quality video, or you are going to take a day to get it. This is not a real problem with audio because most people don’t need or want high quality audio on their iPods. But as more people get HDTVs and expect crystal clear video quality, they are not going to want some 30 MB movie, especially for the price that has been thrown around. I’d much rather go buy the DVD, spend about the same amount, get the extras, and have the full quality right there.

  3. Its an interesting trade-off, since scaling it down to the size of the iTunes’ television offerings might not be all that popular. Would you really want to pay $9.99 for a movie that does not have sufficient resolution to show up nicely on your television?

    $9.99 is just too much for low-res downloads.

  4. I guess I’m a bitch then because I think the resolution of the videos from iTunes leaves a lot to be desired, and that’s just playing them on my 23″ Cinema display. I can’t imagine they are that good on a 47″ tv.

  5. “$9.99 is just too much for low-res downloads.”

    That’s funny, there are already several products on the iTMS selling for MORE than $9.99. Maybe that should be $9.99 is too much for YOU for low-res downloads.

  6. if you would buy non-HD format movie through, $9.99 is way too much expensive because quality will be the same as TV show. who will want to watch TV show quality of movie when you can get DVD from blockbuster for $5? will you? I don’t. movie is different. it should be around 2-3GB with HD quality which is worthy of $9.99.

  7. Why not order the thing through iTunes and then have Apple deliver it through a .Mac-like sync folder? Delivery doesn’t have to be instantaneous. Click to buy in the morning and it will download while you are at work, school, etc. It will be ready on demand when you get home on any Mac that syncs to your account.

  8. I highly doubt they will be selling HD content. They haven’t sold HD versions of any television shows. Internet movie piracy uses 700MB files as a pretty standard medium so the files can be burned to CD and the quality is usually acceptable. Internet TV piracy uses 350MB/hour files and when the source is a digital HD signal the video quality is very good. I’m going to assume that the compression would come from digital high def sources that are even better than the ones pirates get out of their digital cable boxes plus they will be using H.264 not mpeg 2 or whatever is most common in internet piracy these days. Using better sources, better compression and raising the size to 500MB/hour to yield 1GB 2 hour movies I’m sure the video quality from the iTunes Media Store can be very good at deliverable sizes. And if you have to download the movie overnight I bet that would work for most people and might be cheaper/faster because there is less traffic at night.

  9. Why bother with low quality resolution movies? They would only be good for viewing on a portible device. That’s not to say some folks would like this ability, I’m sure they would, but it’s a very small niche. And we’re not even talking HD movies yet. HD is definately coming and when you see an HD movie on an HDTV you will not want anything else. How are you going to download that? In fact, how will you back up your movie library? It’s one thing to back up your 30GB music library, but movies will have you into the terabytes in no time, epecially if it’s HD. I don’t see it.

    I just don’t think downloading movies for an iPod is that big of a deal. The real money is what goes on you HDTV. I don’t think downloading to own is the right model for that kind of content. I think renting is the way to go. You could put a few movies in a que, download them, and watch them whenever you want and then just update your que. Netflix without the CD mailer.

    But how would that fare against viewing on demand from cable or satalite? I don’t know, but what if cable companies could offer pure viewing on demand? Can your HDTV become a glorified monitor drivin by an Apple computer? I hope so.

  10. Hello? Cache? The movie could start playing while you download. When you are done watching, the download would be complete, too. Also, a lot of cable in the U.S. gives you 4-6 Mb download speeds.

  11. OK, the current iTunes videos may not look great on your Cinema Display or any computer monitor for that matter.

    In case you all forgot, standard TV is only 525 lines from top to bottom. The big screen TV you are looking at, if displaying non-HD TV, it’s still 525 lines of resolution, they are just bigger lines. So what video might look OK on your Mac display will look pretty darn close to broadcast TV on your TV.

    Hope you all followed along.

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