Hollywood sceptical about Apple film rentals

Hollywood studios are sceptical about Apple's plans to offer online film rentals via iTunes, reports Reuters .

Yesterday, reports emerged suggesting Apple was in "advanced talks" with key Hollywood studios about online film rentals.

The Financial Times revealed that Apple's proposed service would charge $2.99 (£1.50) for a 30-day film rental. Apple's own DRM software would allow rented titles to be copied once to a portable device, like the video-capable iPod or iPhone.

But Reuters claims that Hollywood execs are unhappy with Apple's copy protection, especially the idea of transferring a copy of a film to a portable device.

Pricing is also believed to be an issue. Hollywood studios might also be concerned that a $2.99 charge would undercut existing rental pricing. It could have an impact on current pay-per-view revenues generated from TV sales as well.

Only a matter of time

Considering Apple's success in the music market, and its existing Hollywood connections, an Apple film rental service is only a matter of time.

But the embryonic nature of the online film rental market means that studios don't need to rush headlong into any deal. Apple needs compelling content. Hollywood can call the shots.

Any film rental service would be an obvious addition to Apple's iTunes portal, which already offers film and TV episode downloads in the US. Apple's high-profile brand and fast-expanding user-base would make it a serious competitor to emerging video-on-demand services.

Crucially, perhaps, Apple already has a ready-made film player for the home - the Apple TV . A film rental service would give this underperforming set-top box a much-needed raison-d'etre.