Mini-major independent film producer Lionsgate announced Monday that they will become the third movie studio behind 20th Century Fox and Sony Pictures to bundle an iTunes digital download with a DVD purchase starting in May. According to the announcement, the packaging will begin with all special edition DVD and Blu Ray copies of Rambo. A second movie, The Eye, featuring Jessica Alba, will also feature the bundled package when it’s released.
In both cases, playing the DVD on a computer will prompt for an included password. Once authenticated through a valid iTunes account, the digital copy of the movie will automatically copy to the iTunes library. From there, an owner can play it on an iPod, iPhone, on a computer or through an Apple TV unit. The only significant limitation is that the digital file can only be copied to one iTunes account.
If the bundled service proves popular, Lionsgate may extend the offering to other future titles from their vast TV and Film catalog. For now, with a number of statistics suggesting electronic sale of movies remains difficult, this is very much a limited market test.
At the least, as a free accessory to a DVD purchase, the experiment may provide some retail insight into whether limited digital film sales (a recent Diffusion Group survey says less than 10 percent of PC users regularly download movies) is a factor of pricing or results from a lack of true digital demand for long-form films in this format. (If pricing has been a gating factor the free inclusion should be loaded to iTunes at a measurably higher rate. )
•Down Economy Boosts Netflix, maybe Blockbuster too?
•Netflix Expands Streaming Service
• Vudu Launches Set Top Video On-Demand Platform
•iTunes Rentals: Here at Last
•Comcast’s 2008 Vision: On Demand is King
•Looking Back and Looking ahead: The Microsoft TV Group