The biggest story to come out of the recent MacWorld conference in San Francisco wasn't the arrival of the ultra-thin MacBook Air notebook, but Steve Jobs' revelation that all six major Hollywood studios have signed up for Apple's online movie-rental service. From now on, owners of Apple TV — a small box that sits on top of the TV set – will be able to rent films without leaving their sofas.
Of course, there's nothing new about video-on-demand. The cable firms NTL and Telewest have been offering this service for years and Sky Box Office gives Sky customers the opportunity to rent films shortly after they've come out on DVD. However, what is so exciting about Apple's service is that every Hollywood movie will be available via Apple TV shortly after it has come out on DVD in America. Given the delay between the release of a picture in the US and its release in the UK, this will mean being able to watch some films at home before they have even come out at the cinema.
British residents are not supposed to be able to take advantage of this service – at least, not yet – but you don't need to be a hacker to access Apple's American online store. All you need is an American debit or credit card. I have one and the upshot is that I can now rent DVDs of titles such as Waitress (pictured) that aren't yet out here.
The service has incredibly far-reaching consequences. For one thing, I can't see Blockbuster surviving in its current form. Who's going to schlep to the video shop when you can rent a far wider – and newer – range of titles from the comfort of your sitting room? Not only that, but I won't need to invest in a Blu-ray DVD player in order to watch brand new films in high-definition, either. Renting a film from Apple costs £1.50, but for an extra 50p I can rent an HD version of that same title and play it back on my HD TV.
More importantly, this service is incompatible with the Hollywood studios' practice of releasing their films in America first, making the rest of us feel like second-class citizens. In future, why would a UK distributor pay a studio several million pounds for the right to exhibit one of its titles in UK cinemas when the British public can already rent it online? The only solution will be to release that film in the UK before it is available on DVD in America and that, in turn, will necessitate significantly reducing the lag time between its release dates in the two territories.
In other words, it won't be long now before Hollywood movies come out on the same day around the world. To my mind, that's a huge leap forward.Reuse content