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Apple Wants to Stream Movies That Are Still in Theaters

The tech giant is looking to sign a deal with major movie studios

December 9, 2016

Apple is in discussions with major movie studios to offer early access to films about two weeks after they’re released in theaters, a move that points to a growing trend of video content accessed and consumed on demand.

Reasons that Internet Users in North America Use Rental or Subscription Video-on-Demand (SVOD) Services, Q3 2016 (% of respondents)

Studios like Warner Bros. and 21st Century Fox—which are looking to offer this service—are eyeing Apple’s iTunes as an option to stream the films. But, they may end up choosing another alternative altogether. Though discussions are still in the early stages, it will cost around $25 to $50 to stream the new theatrical releases.

That pricing is in line with another streaming service that was announced earlier this year. The Screening Room, from Napster founder Sean Parker, is a similar concept to what Apple is hoping to offer—with a few differences. For one, consumers will need to buy a $150 set-top box to be able to stream the new films. The cost to stream a movie via the service will be $50. Currently, AMC is backing the Screening Room, but no studios or theater groups have jumped on board.

Piracy is still a concern for many. According to Bloomberg, there are worries that iTunes may not be “a secure platform for delivering movies that are still in theaters.” Mostly because people at home can rent the film and record it with a camera, without anyone knowing. The Screening Room is looking to combat the issue by watermarking the streaming film.

Studios are most likely looking at streaming options as additional revenue options. According to research from ORC International, box office attendance in North America has been flat since 2010.

Not everyone wants to trek to a theater, or stand on line, to watch the latest movies. A certain segment of consumers have developed a penchant for using rental or subscription video-on-demand (SVOD) services to stream video content because it's convenient. It makes sense for movie studios, as well as players like Apple and The Screening Room, to target that segment.

According to Q3 2016 research from TiVo, internet users in North America like these services for many reasons—selection, convenience, lack of ads, searchability, flexibility of screens and even the original programming.

—Rimma Kats

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