Time should be on our side with iTunes rentals

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My wife and I are the (generally) happy parents of two young children. While they’re clearly the light of my life, there’s no denying they’ve had an impact on our lifestyle. In the PK (pre-kids) days, we’d often head out to the movies, or pick something up at the local rental store to watch. But now, in the WK (with-kids) era, that has pretty much come to an end. With young kids in the house, it’s generally 9 p.m. or so before the last one is settled down and sleeping, and that doesn’t leave much time for movie watching. Sure, if we plan in advance, we can still go to the rental store and pick something up. But browsing for a movie while managing a couple kids isn’t the most relaxing thing to do…and you then have to also get back to the rental store to return them.

Netflix is an option, of course, but then you have to deal with setting up and managing your online queue of preferred movies, and mailing the discs back and forth. There’s also no spontaneity with Netflix—you can’t really say “hey, let’s watch a movie tonight” unless you happen to have an unwatched one sitting there ready to go.

So I was thrilled today when Apple announced the new movie rental program at iTunes—with every major studio represented, high definition rentals on the new Apple TV, and up to 30 days to start watching a rented movie. This seems like a no-brainer winner to me, and I can’t wait to get back home and start taking advantage of it—we have a long list of movies we’d like to see, and I can see how this will help us trim the list.

As good as it is, though, for parents of young children, there’s one change that would make it even better: Give us a bit more time to watch the movies, please! While 24 hours sounds like quite a lot, when you combine children and two working parents, it’s really not. If we start a movie at 9 p.m. some evening, we’re usually only good for about an hour or so until we both need to catch some sleep before the workday. On those rare times we rent, we then watch the rest of the movie the following evening (or evenings, in the case of Lord of the Rings).

With a 24-hour limit on iTunes’ movie rentals, though, this won’t be possible. Once we press Play, we’ll have to commit to watching the entire movie in one sitting, otherwise our time will expire before we can finish it—unless it’s something we’re willing to let the girls watch, too, that is. So really, we’ll be limited to watching our rented movies on Friday or Saturday nights, when we can both stay up later than usual in order to finish the movie.

But this could be easily fixed, I think. From what little I know of the movie rental business, the terms are pretty much set by the studios, not by their distribution partners. Ideally, they’d understand this issue, and just extend the rental period at some point in the future. However, I don’t see that happening without some revenue tie-in, so I propose the following solution. For an extra $1 per rental, you can extend the viewing window by 12 hours at a time. So if you’re willing to pay $2 extra for the HD version of Lord of the Rings, for instance, you’d have a full 48 hours to watch it. In our case, we’d usually pay an extra $1 for a 12-hour extension, giving us one more night to view the movie.

As I see it, this is a win-win for the studios and Apple: they’ll not only make more money per rental, but people like my wife and I will actually rent more often, leading to even more money in all of their pockets. So please, Apple and Hollywood partners, let us keep our rentals for just a bit longer so we can be assured we’ll get to watch all of them!

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