Pali analyst Rich Greenfield says he believes Apple has signed on all of the big Hollywood studios for its new rental service. That’s an interesting call, since most previous reports had said both Sony (SNE) and NBC-U (GE), which is in a bitter fight with Apple over download pricing, would not play along. We should know either way in a few hours. Update: Rich is right.
Also interesting: The normally infallible Rich says that he was wrong yesterday — except for Time Warner’s (TWX) Warner Bros., Hollywood is not giving Apple the ability to sell or rent movies on the same day they come out on DVD. So-called “day and date” deals would give Apple a big advantage over cable — and potentially cut into Wal-Mart (WMT), Blockbuster (BBI) and Netflix (NFLX) businesses.
Conclusion: Steve Jobs is one powerful dude. But even he’s not powerful enough to solve the knotty channel conflicts that dog the entertainment business as it digitizes. Note that even Disney (DIS), where Jobs is the single largest shareholder, isn’t playing along. Greenfield:
While Apple will no doubt make a big deal out of gaining access to digital rentals from all Hollywood studios, we believe the offering as we now envision it, will be relatively unexciting to consumers. If Apple’s window is the same as cable VOD, its advantages versus cable VOD are likely to be the ease of searching and the discovery of content (VOD’s user interface has never been a pleasant consumer experience), the portability of its rentals (via iPods) and the depth of its catalogue; while its greatest disadvantage will be the current difficulty (beyond those who have Apple TV) of watching the content on your living room TV and its lack of instantaneous viewing (files need to download) with cable VOD also able to offer HDTV content (which we doubt will be made available via iTunes in 2008 due to typical broadband bandwidth).
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