Last week Apple removed the ability to rent TV shows in iTunes. Customers are now left with two options: buy an episode or subscribe to a Season Pass. Why the abrupt change, especially after Apple fought with the networks to drop renting prices to a low 99 cents almost one year ago? According to Apple spokesman Tom Neumayr, “iTunes customers have shown they overwhelmingly prefer buying TV shows. iTunes in the Cloud lets customers download and watch their past TV purchases from their iOS devices, Apple TV, Mac or PC allowing them to enjoy their programming whenever and however they choose.” This sudden change in philosophy may be part of an even grander scheme; according to the WSJ the company may be “working on new technology to deliver video to televisions, and has been discussing whether to try to launch a subscription TV service.” Whatever’s going on, newly appointed CEO Tim Cook will eventually have to lay out the future of iTunes and when that happens everything will be made clear. For now, though, I’m finding it hard to take in this news; when I happened to miss an episode of a show, turning on my Apple TV and renting it for cheap was always my favorite way of catching up. There was never a need to purchase a show (for $2.99) and keep it; why bother? But now that’s the only way to do it.
YouTube’s been offering movies to rent since 2009, but the streaming service never really popped due to lack of popular content. Things are about to change. Thanks to super-duper partnerships with major Hollywood studios like NBC Universal, Sony Pictures, and Warner Bros. the collection of rentable movies from YouTube just got a whole lot more exciting. In a press release, YouTube says that customers can expect classic films such as Caddyshack, Goodfellas, Scarface, and Taxi Driver to blockbuster new releases like Inception, The King’s Speech, Little Fockers, The Green Hornet and Despicable Me to start making their way into the video store shortly. New titles will continually be added to the library every week. The renting process is simple and works similarly to competitors out there (read: Apple TV, etc.). Sign into your YouTube account, browse the movies library, and rent a movie with your credit card. Pricing ranges from $2.99 to $3.99 depending on SD/HD resolutions and new releases vs. older selections. Interestingly the press release notes that the site supports video in up to 4k resolution, but I don’t see studios uploading that kind of quality in the foreseeable future. Once a movie is rented, customers will have 30 days to begin watching and once the movie is played it will vanish from existence in 24 hours. Note that movies are strictly streamed over the Internet and not downloaded locally. They are viewable on PCs and Google TVs only for the time being. YouTube is trying to differentiate itself by including “YouTube Movie Extras,” free behind-the-scenes videos, cast interviews, parodies, clips and remixes from YouTube’s unique community of content creators alongside the rentable movies.
Head over to youtube.com/movies to check out the new and highly improved movie selection. Full PR with FAQ after the break.