Apple (Stock Quote: AAPL) may be trying to break into the rental market.
According to Bloomberg, several insiders have said that Apple is currently in talks with several of the major networks to allow iTunes customers to rent TV shows for 99 cents.
“Viewers would be able to rent programs from News Corp.’s Fox for 48 hours,” said the sources, who declined to be identified because the discussions aren’t public. “CBS Corp, NBC Universal and Walt Disney Co. also are in talks about joining the effort,” Bloomberg reports.
Some speculate that Apple may formally announce this new service, likely to be named iTV, at a press conference Sept. 7.
The deal itself is seen as a direct attempt by Apple to compete with existing services like Netflix and Hulu, both of which allow users to watch episodes of current shows on demand.
Yet as AppleInsider.com points out, this deal has been a long time coming, though the pricing model has changed. Last year, Apple was rumored to be pursuing a similar deal with various networks to provide unlimited access to current TV shows for $30 a month.
Even if the rumored deal turns out to be true, there is still some question about whether consumers would be interested in paying 99 cents for a TV show. If the deciding factor is mainly about what’s the best deal for the money, the answer would probably be no.
Let’s say you are mainly interested in keeping up with just one show like The Office. At the moment, you have several options to do that. You can watch new episodes as they come out for free on Hulu or, if you’ve missed a few weeks’ worth, you can pay $10 to sign up for Hulu Premium and watch every episode from the season. On the other hand, if you want to watch all the episodes from previous seasons of the show, you can sign up for a Netflix account and rent each disc separately (subscriptions start at $9 a month). Or, of course, you can follow the show the old-fashioned way and just watch it on TV (though we should mention the average American spends about $75 on cable, not to mention the television itself).
By comparison, if you were looking to follow the show on iTV, the cost would quickly add up. To rent one season would run you about $20 (give or take depending on the number of episodes). So it seems that if Apple’s new service will have any place in the rental market, it will be primarily as a specific supplement to the other services mentioned above.
The biggest thing that iTV has going for it is simply that it is an Apple product. That means any consumer with an iPad, iPhone or Macbook planning to travel for a couple hours may be willing to pay to watch a couple episodes on those devices, rather than buying a subscription to Netflix or Hulu. But it seems unlikely that consumers would choose to completely replace either of those services with iTV since it quickly becomes expensive.
For a list of reputable websites where you can still watch television shows for free, check out this article on MainStreet.
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