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Warner Bros. pulls a fast one through iTunes

Wed, 03/09/2011 - 7:25am
Brian Santo

It appears that some content owners are as frustrated with corporate restrictions on content distribution as consumers are. Warner Bros. is conducting a trial with Facebook to determine how effective Facebook could be as a content distributor. At the same time, Warner Bros. has figured out an end-around to Apple's iTunes.

Warner's power play with Apple enables the studio to get around geographic distribution restrictions. The method is to release movies as "App Editions" for Apple's iPad, iPhone and iPod. The App Editions are essentially long trailers (accompanied by bonus material) that can be downloaded for free via the App Store.

Customers can order the full movie from within-app purchase, which enables both downloading and unlimited streaming of the film and additional bonus content. The first two films available in this manner are "The Dark Knight" and "Inception."

This is the first time Warner Bros. films have been available for Apple's iOS devices outside of a content deal with Apple or other third party, such as Netflix, according to IHS Screen Digest, a research and consulting company. Furthermore, the deal allows Warner to sellthose filmsin 35 territories, including 23 that did not have access to films in general through iTunes movie downloads, including China, Russia, Greece and Portugal.

Apple is presumably willing to go along with this, given that it will still get its 30 percent cut of any video sales.

At the same time, Warner Bros. is conducting what's said to be a low-level test of delivering video through Facebook. Once again, the test film is "The Dark Knight."

U.S. viewers can pay 30 credits ($3) to buy a 48-hour window within which they can watch the film. The film is played through the Facebook website.

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