Movie rentals still shy of 1,000

There’s nothing like an Apple TV software update that compels me to wonder just how that whole iTunes Store rental thing is going. As you may recall, Apple missed its 1,000-rentals-by-the-end-of-February estimate and did so by a fairly significant margin. Now that it’s smack-dab in the middle of April, nearly seven weeks after the deadline, has Apple finally achieved its goal?

Not completely, no.

Starting with the good news, Apple now offers Apple TV owners nearly 200 movies in HD (the total stands at 195 as I write this). You can get this total simply by choosing the All HD command within the Apple TV’s Movie section and counting the number of movie posters that appear.

Calculating the total number of rentals available from the iTunes Store via your Apple TV is difficult, if not impossible. The best solution I could come up with was to count the number of movies available within each genre—Action & Adventure, Comedy, and Drama, for example. Using this method I found 437 movies. But I know this is only a rough estimate as not all movies appear within the Genres listings. For example, when you navigate to the page for A Clockwork Orange it’s listed as a Drama, yet it doesn’t appear under that heading when you look in the Drama genre listing.

The version of the iTunes Store reachable from your computer also remains well short of 1,000 movie rentals. When you navigate to the Movies page within the Store and click the All Movies link you’ll find 784 titles. This number includes all movies at the Store, both those that are for sale and those that are for rent. To see just rentals, choose Store -> Search to bring up the Store’s Power Search window, choose Movies from the Power Search pop-up menu, enable the Search Movies That Are Available For Rent option, and click the Search button. As of Tax Day 2008, the resulting number of rentals is 604. (For those interested, you can also search for just those movies that are closed captioned. That number is 52, 10 of which are for purchase only.)

By way of reminder, Apple’s January press release stated:

iTunes Movie Rentals launches today and will offer over 1,000 titles by the end of February….

And that hasn’t happened.

When asked about the delay in movie rentals, Steve Jobs placed the blame squarely on the shoulders of the movie companies, suggesting that deals over rights were taking longer than anyone anticipated. Now that the Hollywood writers strike is over and the entertainment moguls have nothing to distract them other than the small matter of negotiations with the Screen Actors Guild, perhaps they can take iTunes movie rentals off the back burner and onto our computers, iPods, iPhones, and Apple TVs.

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