Starting today (press release), Apple Canada is making movie (and some TV show) downloads available to Canadians through the Canadian iTunes store. Apple says 1200 titles are available at launch, including 200 ‘high-def’ titles.
Despite Canadian dollar parity, as usual Canadians will pay more per rental ($4.99 for new releases, $3.99 for older titles) than our American friends who pay $3.99 and $2.99 respectively. In both countries ‘high-def’* versions cost $1.00 more when available.
Canadians will have 48 hours to view iTunes movies after pressing play. This is surprising because Americans have only 24 hours to finish watching iTunes movies. I expect the U.S. service to follow suit shortly. As in America, Canadians have 30 days after downloading to start watching their rented movie before it is deleted.
I took a quick look at the iTunes Canada movie offerings. There seems to be a good selection of new and older movies. Unlike in the U.S., there are no current prime-time T.V. shows available for download through the service. The available TV shows are either shows you never heard of or older TV shows. I expect that to change over time too. Participating studios include Disney, Paramount , Warner Bros, 20th Century Fox, Universal, MGM, Sony, Lionsgate and Maple Pictures.
Below I discuss your iTunes movie play-back options and compare the iTunes movie service to Bell’s recently announced video download store, the Xbox 360 movie download service, the Amazon Unbox-to-TiVo video download service and the pending PS3 movie download service.
Canadians can watch iTunes rented movies on their Macs/PCs, on Apple TV units connected to their TVs, on video iPods like the iPod Classic, on the iPod Touch and on the ‘soon’ to be released Rogers iPhone.
The best way to watch these movies, however, will be on your TV through an Apple TV device. It retails in Canada for $249 (40GB unit) and and $349 (160GB unit). Again, Canadians pay more despite dollar parity. The U.S. price for these units is $229 and $329 respectively.
With the latest Apple TV software update, Canadians will be able to order movies directly from their TVs through the Apple TV device. They won’t have to get off the couch to order from their PC as was the case in the past.
Compared to Xbox 360 Movie Downloads in Canada
Microsoft launched its Canadian Xbox 360 movie rental service on December 11, 2007 with just over 30 titles. As of today there are only 90 titles available (compared to about 400 in the U.S.). When the arcane Microsoft Points system is translated into Canadian currency(Cdn $1.42 per 100 Microsoft Points if you buy in bulk at Best Buy), movies rented through the Xbox 360 Marketplace cost:
- $6.25 for new SD releases (440 MS Points)
- $8.25 for new HD releases (580 MS Points)
- $4.26 for older SD releases (300 MS Points)
- ?? for older HD releases (none currently available)
They cost even more if you buy your Microsoft Points through the Xbox Live Marketplace (currently $1.55 per 100 points compared to $1.25 in the U.S.).
A month or so ago I rented the high-def version of Blade Runner (Director’s Cut) through the Xbox 360 service. I was very satisfied with the quality and functionality of the service. The movie started playing approximately 7 minutes after I initiated the download. But, as I wrote here, I dislike their points-based payment system and look forward to its abolition.
Compared to Bell’s Video Download Service
On May 21, 2008, Bell Canada launched the Bell Video Store movie download service (see ). They advertise 1,500 movie and TV shows. But the movie selection was very poor when I looked at it and, predictably the TV shows were only made-in-Canada TV shows, most of which you’ve never heard of. (click picture for larger view)
Bell’s movie rental fees range from $1.99 to $4.99.
Out of the gate, the service was crippled because: (i) it only works on the PC platform (no Mac’s allowed); (ii) does not work with any video iPod, iPod touch or iPhone; (iii) can’t be accessed through Apple TV; and (iii) the only supported portable devices are Archos portable devices – which few Canadians have heard of much less own.
There is no way to get the videos to your TV unless you are one of the 100 Canadians that have figured out how to connect your Xbox 360 as a media extender to Windows Media Center. I tried for two hours to get this to work before I gave up. I will try again and will post my results here on The Daleisphere in the future.
Compared to TiVo’s-Amazon’s Unbox Movie Download Service
I include this for reference only because Amazon and TiVo do not yet make their Amazon Unbox to TiVo movie/download service available in Canada. The service, which started on March 7, 2006, makes approximately 20,000 movies and TV shows available for Americans to rent at prices between $1.99 to 3.99. TV shows cost $1.99 per episode to rent. A good number of those movies/TV shows can be ordered directly from the TiVo (others can be ordered from your PC) and watched from an Internet-connected TiVo. The rental viewing window is 24 hours after you press play. Depending on your broadband connection, you can generally start watching shows quickly after initiating the download. No HD content is available yet but On May 10, 2008 TiVo announced that HD content will be available in the ‘not to distant future’.
Watch a demo: here.
TiVo also supports playback of video podcasts on your TV through the TiVo Desktop software. See my review here.
Compared to Sony’s PS3 Movie Download Service in Canada
In April 2008, Sony announced a pending PS3 movie download service (see here, here and here) to be made available through its revamped PS3 Playstation Store. The service is not available yet but I expect it to be available to Canadians this year.
The iTunes movie download service looks like it may be a winner. It works with all the popular Apple video products including the Apple TV device which is easy to use with your TV. While movie rental fees are more expensive compared to U.S. prices (aren’t they always), the prices are comparable or less than competing online video download services and cable-provided video-on-demand services and not too much more that what you’d pay for a Blockbuster/Rogers movie rental. The selection is good for a newly launched service. As with their competition, I expect the selection will grow dramatically over time. And you can’t beat the convenience.
Given how fond I am of TiVo I would much prefer the Amazon-TiVo Unbox service if it were available. But, the Canadian iTunes movie download service looks like it will be the Canadian download movie rental market leader for now and for the foreseeable future.
* I put ‘high-def’ in quotes because, as with all the services discussed in this post, none of the offerings are true high-def videos. They would more accurately be called "higher-def’ videos. But for most consumers, at slightly better than DVD quality, the quality will be acceptable .