Apple reportedly looking to offer original programming and early access to big movies

Apple is reportedly attempting to secure early access to big Hollywood movies for iTunes in an attempt to boost the service’s popularity. 

Over the past week big companies including 21st Century Fox, Time Warner, Warner Bros, and Comcast have all confirmed that they’re looking into the possibility of offering home rentals of films shortly after their theatrical release, though it won’t be for cheap. 

According to Bloomberg, some of these studios are considering offering these home rentals to audiences just two weeks after their initial release. Sources close to the matter have said that one of the ways they’re considering offering these films is, apparently, through iTunes.

Standing out

Two sources told Bloomberg that Apple has been trying to secure new films before other companies for a while now, and these talks are part of that. If Apple were able to offer films to its iTunes customers before competitors it would certainly give its service the edge in an increasingly saturated streaming market where it’s far from dominant.

Talks are, however, ongoing so there’s no guarantee that iTunes will be the platform the studio executives choose in the end. 

Usually cinemas are given exclusive rights to films for around 90 days before they’re released on DVD or offered online. Now that cinema attendance figures are continuing to disappoint and home streaming services are flourishing, studios are naturally looking to find new ways to profit.

Outside of deals with specific platforms, Bloomberg reports that studios premium-priced online rentals where it could cost customers $25 to $50 to access films. Whether or not this would be per film or on a subscription basis is unclear. 

It’s been suggested that a smaller time frame between cinema and home release could reduce piracy, but sources have said there are concerns that iTunes may not be a secure enough platform to grant it early access.

Although iTunes videos are encrypted, there isn’t really anything stopping those who download them from recording them using a high-quality camera and proceeding to illegally distribute them which could be seriously harm cinemas’ abilities to turn a profit. 

Regardless, it seems a change in the way new films are distributed is inevitable. Whether or not Apple will be a big part of that is yet to be seen. 

Back up plan

If Apple doesn't get access to new Hollywood movies, it apparently has other plans to keep up with the big video services like Netflix and Amazon and those plans involve original programming. 

We've been aware of Apple's video ambitions for a while, especially after it purchased James Cordon's Carpool Karaoke. However, according to a report in The Wall Street Journal the company hopes to be offering original scripted content by the end of the year.

The report suggests that Apple's plan would be to include access to this video content in its existing subscriptions, creating an Apple ecosystem like Amazon's Prime service.

It's not clear exactly what kind of original content Apple is looking to secure, but the report says the company is focusing on making it a small but high quality offering.

As its initial selection would be so small, the Wall Street Journal speculates that rather than making Apple Music a competitor to the big streaming services like Netflix and Amazon, it would actually serve to "escalate the arms race" between Apple and other music services like Spotify. 

Emma Boyle

Emma Boyle is TechRadar’s ex-Gaming Editor, and is now a content developer and freelance journalist. She has written for magazines and websites including T3, Stuff and The Independent. Emma currently works as a Content Developer in Edinburgh.