New reports have claimed that Apple’s iTunes is likely to be the first in line for a premium video-on-demand service – streaming a movie while it is still in theaters. At present, iTunes is already first in line for digital home viewing including rentals and downloads so it’s no surprise that Hollywood would rather place their trust in a service that they already partner with.
A senior Box Office analyst with Exhibitor Relations argued that iTunes would be the “logical choice” because “it’s what everybody already has” and then went on to suggest that Screening Room – a service founded by Napster creator Sean Parker (with stakeholders including Steven Spielberg, J.J Abrams and Peter Jackson) is likely to be cut out of the PVOD (Premium Video on Demand) segment as the company will have to catch up with infrastructure.
A report in early December of last year claimed that Apple were already pursuing early access streaming in talks with studios but the main issue remains – exactly when to allow PVOD after the movie’s premiere. The minimum is two weeks as this is the time when studios and exhibitors reap the most revenue.
Of course, there are concerns about a potential increase in piracy and there’s a possibility that PVOD could be relegated to “the dark zone”, a period when movies are out of first-run theaters but aren’t yet available on disc or online. Currently, theaters only have a 90 day exclusivity on new releases.
Another problem that remains unresolved is pricing. Screening Room has suggested $50 rentals that would be split between studios, theaters and distributors and Fox and Warner Bros. have considered $30 although this would include a 30 day wait. Disney have not proposed a PVOD offer and it’s likely that this is because they own franchises with much longer theater runs such as Star Wars and the Marvel films.