The only major studio not onboard, in fact, is Walt Disney Pictures, whose biggest shareholder is Apple CEO Steve Jobs. Apple's iTunes music store, which already sells TV shows and music videos, is slated to add movies to the mix early next week.
Studios involved include 20th Century Fox, Lions Gate, MGM, Paramount, Sony Pictures, Universal Studios and Warner Bros. Participating TV networks include CBS, Fox, MTV, Nickelodeon, PBS, BBC, A&E, Discovery Channel, Comedy Central and the History Channel, among others. TV shows cost $1.99 per episode; movies can be rented for $3.99 or bought for $7.99 to $19.87.
Hollywood studios were selling films through online services as early as 1999, but low bandwidth and high costs limited adoption. Even today, sites like Movielink, CinemaNow and Guba are hampered by viewing restrictions and inconvenient download times. Downloading a film from CinemaNow, for instance, can take as long as an hour with a broadband internet connection.
Amazon, which already generates a third of its revenue through media sales, including products such as DVDs, also operates the internet's most popular movie resource, IMDB.com. The site attracted 18.7 million unique visitors in July, according to comScore Networks. It also consistently ranks highly in searches for popular movie titles on Google and other search engines -- a huge asset, as any search-engine marketer will attest.
Since Apple started selling video last year, the company has sold more than 35 million clips, including music videos and classic and current TV shows.