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Apple ponders iTunes subscriptions?

updated 04:10 pm EDT, Wed April 11, 2007

Apple Ponders Subscription

Apple is reconsidering its attitude towards iTunes subscriptions, research group INTENT MediaWorks claims. Company CEO Les Ottolenghi said today that discussions with Apple staffers had led him to believe that the iTunes Store will see a subscription service within six months despite Apple's previous insistence on a-la-carte downloads.

"Apple is seriously considering a subscription offering right now even though they will probably tell you otherwise," he asserted.

Ottolenghi added that while veteran proponents of subscription services were faring relatively poorly, such as Napster and Yahoo, he believes their failures were more the result of a chicken-and-egg adoption problem where Apple's command of the market reduced the awareness of subscription choices, reducing the demand for (and incentive to use) the music rental model. Inside Digital Media analyst Phil Leigh agreed.

"The number one factor retarding the acceptance of the subscription model is the dominance of Apple," he said. "The idea of subscribing to music is new to most consumers so when the dominant player doesn't talk about it, the idea seems out of the mainstream."

If offered in a copy-protected form, the subscription service would openly contradict Apple CEO Steve Jobs, who famously launched 99-cent downloads for the iTunes Store in April 2003 with the argument that buyers would prefer not to "rent" their music. The company's recent agreement to drop DRM for EMI's music would also oppose the strategy by encouraging shoppers to pay for unrestricted individual downloads.

However, the INTENT analyst didn't provide details as to the exact subscription format, which could more closely resemble the eMusic approac. The second-place online music store currently requires monthly subscriptions but offers permanent copies for every download.

by MacNN Staff




  1. suhail

    Joined: Dec 1969


    They better

    They better implement subscription services within iTunes, especially Apple TV. 6 months is too long, they should do it NOW!

  1. nativeNYer

    Joined: Dec 1969


    movies, TV shows

    I can see a subscription service for TV shows and movies, or more like a rental system. I still don't understand how people are buying movies from iTS. I buy an occasional TV show, but only if it's a viewing I missed. For $1.99 it's not all that bad. But movies I just don't get. It's just not worth it to me.

    Apple, give us a rental or subscription service for these and I will seriously consider it. For music though, I think it should remain a buy per track/album system. The music rental systems haven't made a dent in iTS so far, so I see no reason they should be too concerned. And I think Steve is right that most people prefer to own music over renting it, especially now that the DRM walls are beginning to crumble. Going subscription for music now , which would necessitate DRM, would be a huge step backwards IMO.

  1. Sinemacula

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Buy music, rent video

    While I strongly prefer purchasing my music to a rental/subscription model (even more so as we move towards DRM-free music), I have an equally strong preference for "renting" (or subscribing to) TV and movie content.

    While I have purchased a few TV episodes from iTS, I can't see myself purchasing movies any more than I'd purchase DVDs (I've only bought about 10 DVDs since they first became available, and I think I only bought 5 or 6 VHS tapes before that)... but I DO rent movies (DVDs or "On Demand") pretty frequently.

    For me, music and video are fundamentally different in terms of how I use them, and what I want in terms of "ownership." I hope Apple does offer a subscription/rental model for video, but please don't get rid of the ability to "buy" music!

  1. jameshays

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Consumer Vote

    I think they'll do whatever the consumer tells them to do. Our dollar bills are great voting ballots for future features. Companies like Apple know this and will adjust as they need to.

  1. akatsukix

    Joined: Dec 1969


    rental makes sense

    For TV, rental definitely makes sense. For movies too. I would probably do a subscription music even with DRM if it wasn't too onerous (i.e. I don't mind not being able to transfer the songs to friends, but I should be able to transfer to an AppleTV, be able to use iTunes sharing, and transfer to three or four iPods.)

  1. danviento

    Joined: Dec 1969


    And yet

    you still see many people who buy television DVD's. If a series is good, I can see the point. It's the same reason you buy books - so you can revisit an ongoing stroy again and again at your leisure. We have libraries for those who want to "subscribe" to a service.

    Perhaps a combination of both could be possible. Try a show out for a while, and if you like it, you can use the money you've spent on the subscription towards the cost of buying it. Since Apple has finally made such a good decision to do something similar with buying individual songs to albums, it would seem within the realm of possibility. I've been paying for software licenses for years now this way, and it makes a high cost seem extremely reasonable. Perhaps prices could work in such as fashion for iTMS.

  1. Boris_Noir

    Joined: Dec 1969


    you can dream

    Subscription to the iTunes Store alongside The Filter would be groundbreaking. Think about it.

  1. biggar

    Joined: Dec 1969


    ITunes Subscription

    I have been a member of eMusic since 1999 and a subscriber to their service since I cannot remember when. But that's the point, I subscribed to eMusic and forgot about it. During the third week of each month, I download my 65 songs. Sometimes I savour the experience and download my songs over two or three weeks. I have purchased over 1000 songs from iTunes but many more from eMusic (and not because their sownloads are cheaper). It's all about convenience.


  1. sammaffei

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Movies rentals buy option

    I would like a service that allows me to rent a movie with the option to buy later (applying the rental fee toward the purchase price).

    Apple allows purchase. XBox allows rental. But, neither allow rental with option to buy. This is what I think the industry is really missing.

    Apple really needs to beef up the Apple TV storage space and provide HD movies and TV shows before I consider buying it.

  1. jhorvatic

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Subscriptions SUCK!!!

    Subcriptions suck and that's why napster and the others aren't doing well. People like to own there media and not have to pay continually for it just for the right to view it again. If you want to rent use netflix.

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