Apple’s Rumored Cloud Movie Service Not Likely Any Time Soon

Rumors have percolated over the past few months suggesting that Apple could soon launch something called iTunes Replay, which would allow iTunes customers to redownload and possibly stream movies. As TMO reported last week, that service was rumored to be on the verge of launching “in the near future,” but CNET reported on Monday that such speculation is “at best premature.”

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Reporter Greg Sandoval’s film industry sources told him that at least four of the top six film studios haven’t reached deals with Apple yet, and the required negotiations “could drag on for months” before agreements with all six are finalized. The main hold-up appears to be the so-called “HBO window,” which gives the cable channel exclusive electronic distribution rights to movies from 20th Century Fox, Universal, and Warner Bros. During that window, resellers can carry DVDs of movies from those studios, but only HBO can offer online streaming, which means iTunes Replay wouldn’t be available for those films either.

According to Mr. Sandoval, “HBO is trying to cover its backside” as it deals with electronic distribution contracts that were created before cloud-based services existed. His sources said that HBO doesn’t want to put itself at a disadvantage if it allows a streaming service like iTunes Replay to carry films from those three studios during the HBO window. However, he was also told that Time Warner, owner of HBO, wants to strike a cloud distribution deal, so Apple and other companies will likely be able to launch competing services, but negotiating the contracts will take some time.