How Apple could deliver workable iTunes video rentals

“Apple is reportedly considering an expansion of its iTunes offerings to include video rentals. How can Apple succeed in a market where so many other online media outlets have failed or are struggling for relevance? By taking an new approach that follows what works in the real world, and respects the existing culture rather than trying to overturn it,” Daniel Eran Dilger writes for RoughlyDrafted.

“Rather than renting one-use access to media rentals that are timed to explode, it seems more likely that Apple will deliver a slot-based media offering, where users could buy a certain number of slots on a subscription basis. When finished with a movie, the user returns it to the slot and can replace it with another download. This would copy how Blockbuster and Netflix run their DVD rentals, within the virtual realm,” Dilger writes.

“The difference for consumers is that they would decide when they are done with a title, rather than it expiring or limited them to one play on one device, as is the case for Microsoft’s Windows Media rentals for the Xbox 360 Live service. It would also be possible to sync iTunes’ slots to mobile devices, as iTunes already manages their library sync. Those devices would “loan out” the item in slots, and return them to get new items,” Dilger writes.

Dilger takes a look at what’s involved in the complex world of digital rentals and how Apple could deliver workable iTunes rentals in his full article here.

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


  1. Peter,
    Your idea would place a stiff penalty on forgetful people.
    As a busy, procrastinating and yes, forgetful person myself, I really like Dilger’s idea of a keep-it-until-you-swap-it system.

  2. I’m wondering what will happen to my neighborhood cable bandwidth when everyone is downloading movies. I can already see a
    performance drop during peak usage periods. Probably have to get dialup again to check my e-mail. Arrrgh!

  3. We’ll all encounter a conflict-of-interest with cable-based Internet services, that also sell PPV movie rentals. This will become a big problem. They already are positioning themselves to cash in and control the Internet for this use. Comcast Internet (6 Mbits p/s service) puts a monthly bandwidth download cap on accounts and cuts off users whose data downloads exceed a “norm.” Comcast refuses to define the actual bandwidth limit in writing though because it varies with each spectrum-starved franchise they operate, but it’s based on the percentage of overall bandwidth you use compared to others. Surewest Digital, a competitor that operates a regional, but more advanced FTTH (fiber to the home) Internet/TV/Phone service in the Sacramento area has the following Internet bandwidth (download) caps:

    1 Mbits: 40GB
    3 Mbits: 40GB
    10 Mbits: 75GB
    20 Mbits: 150 GB
    50 Mbits: 400 GB

    The cable companies plan to cast aside net neutrality and take a piece of the pie if you opt to purchase movies from someone else. So, I’m trying to figure out what other Internet service would be a better fit in the future to eliminate this conflict of interest.

  4. I love the idea of online rentals and have been an advocate since the beginning of AppleTV. But I agree with people here–I’m not sure we have enough bandwidth at this point to make it work. Especially if you want to make it HD (720p). Somehow you have to be able to download it fast (like less than an hour as opposed to *hours*) and not clog up the ISPs. Is this even possible? Anyone know?

    If Apple can solve these issues I’m all over it.

  5. @mm:

    My bad, I though Daniel Dilger was proposing a plan that actually could have been implemented. It clear to me now that current technology is incapable of providing realtime online film rental services.

    I mean, how many minutes would most people be willing to wait to download a 2 hour film? I wouldn’t want to wait more than 2 minutes and I doubt that sufficient and affordable bandwidth will be available for several years.

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