Last week, during the big iPad announcement, Apple slipped a little surprise in there; Movies will be included in the Previously Purchased section of iTunes, which Apple has dubbed iTunes in the Cloud. This is huge and something I've been looking forward to since Music, TV shows and Apps were originally added last June. A quick summary, Previously Purchased sections of the App Store and iTunes allow you to re-download content that you bought in the past. This is clutch for those times you forgot to sync a TV show, song or App before leaving the house. It's integrated into Apple TV perfectly, removing the need for a computer on your network hosting content.
While Apps, music and TV shows are nice, I think movies benefits the most from this. For starters they are huge running around 5 GB a flick. Keeping a movie collection on a laptop with limited storage is difficult and no one wants to keep them on their iOS device all the time.
The long to short is, while some movies are available from the Previously Purchased section, many are not. I don't have many iTunes movies but of the four that I've purchased over the past year, only two are currently available from iTunes in the Cloud. This can only mean that some movie studios are holding out, and that worries me. In the past Apple has commanded complete cooperation from all major movie and music studios. Why didn't they mention that there were hold outs from the always finicky movie industry during their announcement?
So who's holding out? Well here is the response I received from Apple's iTunes support yesterday:
Michael, some previously purchased movies may not be available for download. If the movie can’t be downloaded again, you will see the message "When purchased, this movie will not be available to redownload from iTunes in the Cloud" under the Buy buttons on the iTunes Store product page.
Interesting. So I headed on over to the movie pages in iTunes to see this message for myself. First up is Pulp Fiction, one of my all time favorites. I get to the page and start looking for the "Buy" button, but it's nowhere to be found. I can rent it, but there's no option to purchase it.
So I checked the other movie that was missing, Bridesmaids, to see if you could still buy it. Though after searching iTunes for the movie, it had gone missing. In the iTunes store right now, you can't rent or purchase Bridesmaids. Very interesting.
So what does all of this mean? I really don't know to be honest. Bridesmaids was produced by Universal Pictures, Relativity Media and Apatow Production, all of which still have their biggest movies available in iTunes. I wrote back to the support tech asking for a little more information, but I'm not all that hopeful anything will come of it. In the meantime I'm going to have to keep searching, and hopefully someone a little bigger than myself picks up the story and get's some answers.
Update (April 8th, 2012) : The Verge is now reporting that Universal Pictures is available in iCloud. I can now stream Bridesmaids to my Apple TV. This doesn't change the fact that redownloading a previously purchased movie is 100% dependent on Apple's current contract with movie studios. Since you already own the movie, it makes little sense to prevent people from redownloading or streaming it in the future. This is the movie studios we're talking about I guess.