Apple on Thursday started offering high-definition movies for rent or purchase on the iTunes store and said future movies would be available in HD format 30 days after their release.
Apple launched an HD page on iTunes, featuring about a dozen films available immediately, such as Transporter 3, The Spirit, and The Punisher: War Zone. Apple also started taking preorders for a couple of last year's more popular films, the latest James Bond film Quantum Of Solace and the teenage vampire film Twilight.
Some of the films listed could only be purchased. Apple is selling HD films for $19.99 and renting them for $4.99 for new releases and $3.99 for older titles. Apple is renting HD movies at $1 more than regular titles.
Apple's current offerings are limited, but the company said it would be adding more HD movies soon. Apple has been offering prime-time television shows on iTunes in HD format from all four major networks since the fall of 2008.
Movies and TV shows downloaded from iTunes can be played on an Apple Mac, iPhone, and some iPod models, as well as a Windows PC. The films also can be played on a digital TV through the Apple TV set-top box.
Video viewing on the Web is rising steadily, but purchases and rentals of films and TV shows remain a small slice of the overall market. In January, U.S. Internet users viewed 14.8 billion online videos, a 4% increase from December, according to Web metrics firm ComScore. Google's YouTube was the clear leader, accounting for almost 43% of the video watched on the Web. The second largest, Fox Interactive Media, accounted for only 3.7%.
How much more people are willing to pay for HD content remains to be seen. Sales of movies available in the Blu-ray DVD format have not met expectations, with consumers finding that standard DVD movies are good enough, particularly since playing content in true HD often requires equipment upgrades.
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