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. To Tommo_UK:
    500 – 700 mb tops? That’s 62.5 – 82.5 MB tops? You just sound stupid when you say that. Even using MPEG 4 Part 10 (AVC) compression techniques (or even Microsoft’s competing technology) taking a two hour movie at standard definition and squeezing it into less than 100 MB will result in mud.

    But let’s assume for the moment that you really meant 500 – 700 MB tops. The result is still rather poor quality. Something I’d rather not have. And I believe the average consumer would rather not have it too. Why do you think that most DVDs today are dual layer (8.5 GB) rather than the single layer (4.7 GB)? Because once you add in all the “extras” you go way beyond the single layer. Often the movies themselves go beyond the single layer capacity. None of them are in the “500 – 700 MB tops” range.

    To macbones:
    You may be fine with viewing iPod quality video on your large screen. If you’re happy with it, great. Some people are fine with running Windows 3.11 forever too. Some people can’t see any quality or visual differences between Mac OS X 10.4.x and Windows 2000 either. I’m not one.

    I believe most people will easily be able to see the difference between SD and the low rez stuff Apple is offering now. Some people won’t buy from an online media store until they provide HD quality. This does not even count the small subset which will hold out for 1080p no matter what (and at a decent compression rate at that — no less than 24 Mbps compressed).

    The author of the article is right. Bandwidth is *THE* issue. The average consumer wants his/her stuff *NOW*. S/he will wait a few minutes, but hours? Unlikely.

    And for those who want to do the math… a two hour standard definition digital movie even at MPEG 4 Part 10 will be well over 1.5 GB no matter how you cut it (well over 3.5 GB if you want high quality SD). At the most common (in the U.S.) DSL rate of 1.5 Mbps that’s well over 8,000 seconds or well over two hours.

    Will the average consumer wait two hours for a moderate to low quality download? I doubt it. Will the average consumer wait well over four hours for a high quality download that is only SD? I doubt it.

  2. Folks. Why do we download in the first place. The most importance aspect of downloading is convenience!

    Argue all you want about it’s not DVD quality. Buy the DVD. Get in yoru car and go.

    Want to watch a movie now? Download.

    Millions right now are ordering movies from their cable provider as “Movies On Demand” for $4.95 to watch as many times as you want within 24 hours.

    Movie downloads will be a huge hit because of convenience. And that’s all. Just like the 128k music files. And then being played through $4 dollar ear phones by the vast majority. YOu want to listen to music cd quality or a movie DVD quality? The buy the CD or DVD.

    Arguing about the quality for the so small amount of people with HD or plasma tv’s now is ludicrous.

  3. Here’s the deal for ME:

    1. Instant Gratification. I love the fact that I can purchase an entire album on iTunes and own a copy in about 6-7 minutes… that’s a lot faster than jumping in the car, heading over to the CD store, finding it, checking out, driving back.. you get the picture.

    2. It has to be HD. I’ve stopped buying DVD’s because I view this like buying cassettes(or vinyl) copies of albums in the early 80s when CDs were on the horizon. Why buy a lessor format when a better one is just about here.

    3. I love the NO PACKAGE concept. Every CD I own has been copied into iTunes and on a seperate HD. I live in New Orleans… and the one thing I made sure to bring with me last fall when I evacuated for Katrina was… you guessed it.. an external HD with my iTunes library. So I’m very comfortble with downloading movies(see #1, see #2)

  4. Recently, 5 episodes of O’Grady were made available for free, and I snatched them up. Not only are they funny, but they also give you all some REAL information about file sizes.

    Each episode is approximately 25 minutes (they’re all OVER 25 minutes, but we’re going to drop the seconds). Each episode is around 110 megs (ranging from 108 to 117 megs).

    5 episodes equal 125 minutes, not a bad run time for a movie. The file size of all 5 episodes? 565 megs.

    So, can we toss out the “1.5 gigs or it’ll look like mud” at this point?

  5. Shadowself,

    You and others, like the author of the article, are right.

    Viewing quality is somewhat subjective, so some disagree because they are willing to settle for less. Others have great connections and don’t realize their experience is the exception and not the norm, so they don’t get it, either.

    However, the situation is going to change when the telcos get their way on “net neutrality.” And they will will. When the legislation favorable to them passes, we will start to see the telcos offer multi-tiered rates soon thereafter, probably within 12 to 24 months.

    What does “net neutrality” have to do with the subject at hand?

    Simple. The ” anti-net neutrality” group (or “Annies” as I like to call them) have continuously harped about the infrastructure/pipelines needed for just this sort of thing (delivery of high bandwidth content such as video). The “Annies” say it has to be built and paid for, and that it should be paid for by those who want to use it to send and receive such content. Which I won’t argue with. Access for sending/receiving should be paid for.

    But, what the “Annies” aren’t saying is, it takes a very, very long time to build such infrastructure/pipelines. If, as I surmise above, the telcos soon start offering multi-tiered services, then it means the infrastructure/pipelines are already in place. They have already been built and, consequently, paid for. Built the way infrastructure improvements are built and paid for… by the customers (senders and recievers) already using the telcos services. The telcos want them to pay again and more.

    When the telcos do start offering these premium, higher speed, higher bandwidth services, the only thing that will change for most existing residential customers (besides a higher bill) will be the telco giving them a new device to interface the customer’s PC with the telco’s network, and some may also require a new cable from their home to the telco’s pipe at the street. Further proof the infrastructure/pipelines being already in place.

    When the telcos have they want, and lots of customers signed up, an Apple Media Store with high quality movie downloads will then be a functional reality. Provided the movie studios go for it, but that’s another can of worms.

  6. All these debates about download speed vs. image quality hinge on the fact that there hasn’t been any statement about files size. Until we know how large a typical movie is going to be then we have no way of speculating about the value of an iTunes movie.

    I can’t see how any movie less than 1Gb can match the quality of a DVD. I’ve read that they want to charge the same price for a downloaded movie as a DVD, but there is no way that I’m going to pay the same amount for an inferior product.

  7. To Wrong Again:

    First, you missed a point in my original statement: the video was at standard defition (an NTSC/PAL equivalent in digital form). The downloads you mention are at a lower resolution and thus fall under my other statement that some people are OK with poorer resolution. Some, like me, are not.

    Also, my understanding (having never watched it) is that the show you mention (O’Grady) is an animated feature. [If you are referring to something else then the following may be irrelevant.] Animation has *signicantly* less infromation content in the imagery than the typical, live action movie. If you’re going to pull of an extreme like animation then as a counterpoint I can pull up movies that have a high amount of fast moving imagery and lots of very bright, contrasting colors (e.g., Hero and House of Flying Daggers) which will not compress even to the 24 Mbps rate I mentioned earlier — if you want a decent picture with no visible compression artifacts.

    You could even have gone to a more extreme example and given a calculation based upon an animated talking head giving the “news”. Such an example could have been compressed to less than 100 MB per hour of video. However, such extreme examples are not relevant as one can always give a counter example in the other extreme.

    I stand by my point. For the average (added that for clarification) two hour movie at standard definition anything less than 1.5 is going to be poor quality.

  8. I have here a 540p video podcast. (MacBreak). It runs 7.57MB a minute in size. Let’s say Apple offers Numb3rs (42 min) at that resolution, the download would be around 318MB. I think that that (540p) is a good setting for download. If I had to download a 120 min movie it ends up as 909MB. But it’s good looking. It is big, but it’s not 1.5GB.

  9. Shadowself – “The author of the article is right. Bandwidth is *THE* issue. The average consumer wants his/her stuff *NOW*. S/he will wait a few minutes, but hours? Unlikely.”

    —> Agreed. That is unquestionably the root of the issue. PERIOD.

    Leo – “But, what the “Annies” aren’t saying is, it takes a very, very long time to build such infrastructure/pipelines. If, as I surmise above, the telcos soon start offering multi-tiered services, then it means the infrastructure/pipelines are already in place. They have already been built and, consequently, paid for. Built the way infrastructure improvements are built and paid for… by the customers (senders and recievers) already using the telcos services

    —> The infrastructure is *NOT* in place, and, as to the bold emphasised part – I must disagree there as well. It is *not* already being paid for by current customers. Venture Capitalists (Wall Street) will be doing the investing looking towards the future. Wall Street will be saying yes or no to broadband expansion. We are currently 16th (approx) in the world in broadband penetration. We currently have 1/50th the bandwidth per capita as Korea. Go to this site:

    Scroll down to Friday, June 9. 2006 – Net Neutrality Laws Create Un-neutral Net. Download the highlighted podcast. It’s about 20 min. long. Listen to it a couple of times (the second half is particularly important). I used to be 100% for net neutrality. After listening to that single podcast, I’ve turned 180˚ and am now absolutely against it. Net neutrality will stifle innovation and become a lawyer fest. It’s already regulated 50 different ways (a different way in each state). TIME TO DEREGULATE. Check out that cast – it’s a no BS hard look at the current state of BB and where we are heading. My thanks goes out to the person who posted a link to this very same podcast in a thread about 3-4 weeks ago – changed my mind entirely.

  10. ^^^^ Also check out the .pdf on the same site : Tuesday, June 20. 2006 – We’ll soon have to divert Net traffic through Seoul & Beijing to avoid lawyer spam

    Cubert – It’s all about bandwidth. Yes, you could stream and “watch while you buy/dload”, but the hard fact is that there is not enough bandwidth and infrastructure in place yet to handle mass streaming/dloading of quality video at full screen resolutions. It just doesn’t physically exist. BTW, there are a few cool Ken Shamrock UFC clips on YouTube. Just do a search. Hopefully they haven’t been taken down yet.

  11. Sorry….forgot one other thing. George Gilder (the man interviewed in the podcast) is a preeminent expert in this particular field. His comments are not to be taken lightly (IMO).

  12. What the hell, 4 in a row……..

    We’ll soon have to divert Net traffic through Seoul & Beijing to avoid lawyer spam

    Intellectuals and politicians mistakenly think of telecom as a perpetual problem: a natural monopoly, an anti-trust peril, a free speech filter, and a forensic circus. Their bright idea of the moment, “net neutrality,”is a concept at once so vague and demanding that its penumbra could be litigated in fifty states and up-and-down the federal court system until all our Internet traffic has to be diverted through Seoul and Beijing merely to avoid lawyer spam. By any name, as Larry Darby points out in an important recent paper, “net neutrality” means price controls on some of the most complex many-sided markets in all industry and thus is sure to do for the rollout of broadband what Sarbox has done for IPOs. (See: Neutrality Study.pdf)

    There’s the link to the .pdf

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