difference between now and then, however, is that the mobile video landscape has changed dramatically, and Apple has already taken some first steps towards making such a service a reality.
According to two separate sources speaking to AppAdvice, Apple will launch iTunes Replay in the coming weeks, which will work by providing a little arrow next to TV show and movie content available in the iTunes store that qualifies for the service. Content marked with the arrow will be able to be downloaded multiple times to different devices, and likely streamed to some as well. The blog reports that some content will be limited to only five subsequent downloads, likely dependent upon rights negotiations with content providers, but that users will also be able to use iTunes Replay with previously purchased content, so long as it was bought after Jan. 1 2009.
If Apple has been working on such a service, it makes much more sense that we’d see it actually released to the public now in 2011, rather than in 2009. First, digital video sales is a completely different landscape. Netflix has prompted aggressive growth of streaming distribution, and Blockbuster has since declared bankruptcy, putting a huge dent in physical rentals. TV Everywhere initiatives by cable companies have also helped make device independent digital distribution more commonplace. Also, mobile video is a much more influential force, so providing greater access to iOS devices is in the best interest of content sellers.
Apple’s recent actions also indicate that the time for iTunes Replay to finally go public may have finally arrived. With the introduction of iCloud, users (in the U.S.) can now automatically download purchases made on one device, an iPhone for instance, onto another, like their Mac or iPad. And thanks to the latest Apple TV update, iTunes customers can already stream some TV content to that platform directly after purchase. Broadening the availability of multiple downloads and streaming of TV and movie content on iOS, Mac and TV is a logical next step.
I have no doubt that Apple would love to offer something like this to iTunes customers. The only question remains, are film and TV content providers ready to take that step? If rights negotiations began back in 2009 when this service first hit the radar, than that is definitely possible, especially given all that’s happened in the meantime.