Apple has launched a new push for its iTunes Extras content, including a direct tie-in to Apple TV.
iTunes Extras have been around for some time now, but the special features, which range from behind-the-scenes video and commentaries to short films and high-resolution photo galleries, have become an increasingly high profile part of Apple’s digital movie store in the last year. Star Trek angered fans when it divvied up its special features between formats, with some bonus content such as a director’s commentary only available with an iTunes purchase and others only available through Tesco’s blinkbox. The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey Extended Edition, meanwhile, offered the entire Blu-ray package as an additional download totalling 13 odd GB.
Now, though, Apple is stepping up its game to turn iTunes movies into an “spectacular, immersive experience”. Disney and Pixar, Fox, Paramount, Sony Pictures Entertainment, Universal, Warner Bros., Lionsgate, Starz Digital Media and A24 are all lining up to provide new iTunes Extras content, including Scenes – a feature that delivers highlights from a movie, e.g. a compilation of Disney songs.
The major shift is that it is not just new titles that will be getting Extras: they can now be added retrospectively to older films too – at no additional charge.
Customers with the latest versions of iTunes will be able to download Extras for existing and new purchases – and, crucially, those with Apple TV will too, beaming iTunes Extras directly onto HD TV screens. The service will be extended to iPhone, iPad or iPod touch users in autumn with iOS 8.
“This can broaden the palette of what we do with our filmmakers,” Rebecca Sosa, head of digital distribution for indie studio A24 (who are releasing Under the Skin in the US), tells Variety.
Indeed, while digital movies have often been seen as inferior to Blu-ray packages thanks to a lack of special features, Apple are now placing the emphasis on bonus content front and centre. It is not just a decision to boost iTunes’ 85,000+ movie catalogue against a growing number of rivals – ownership is more popular than subscription services, according to the BVA, including both the electronic sell-through (pay-per-view VOD) sector and physical media – but also to boost its own Apple TV set top box.
Earlier this week, a study found among US broadband households with a streaming media player, 44 per cent use a Roku player the most versus 26 per cent that use Apple TV the most. Nonetheless, Apple has shifted more than 13 million Apple TV boxes overall and generated $1 billion in 2013 from sales. In America, meanwhile, iTunes made up almost two-thirds (64 per cent) of EST downloads in H2 2013.
As Amazon releases Amazon Fire TV and Google prepares to launch Android TV, the streaming media device sector is growing, with Park Associates predicting that more than 1 in 4 US households will have a streaming media player by 2015. With rumours flying around that a relaunched Apple TV is on the way soon, this latest push behind iTunes Extras suggests that Apple is only just starting its fight back for a place in your living room.
What films are iTunes Extras available for?
Here’s a list (correct at the time of writing):
Action & Adventure
The Dark Knight
The Dark Knight Rises
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1
Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows
MissionL Impossible – Ghost Protocol
Man of Steel
Thor: The Dark World
Transformers: Dark of the Moon
Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen
Men in Black 3
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
Alice in Wonderland
Rise of the Guardians
This Is the End
Oz the Great and Powerful
Kung Fu Panda 2
GI Joe: The Rise of Cobra
Wrath of the Titans
X2: X-Men United
X-Men: The Last Stand
Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull
Mission: Impossible III
Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark
Mission: Impossible II
Planet of the Apes
Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade
Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom
300: Rise of an Empire
Beneath the Planet of the Apes
Rise of the Planet of the Apes
X-Men: First Class
Planet of the Apes (1968)
Escape from the Planet of the Apes
Conquest of the Planet of the Apes
Battle for the Planet of the Apes
The Grand Budapest Hotel
We’re the Millers
The Hangover Part II
Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues
The Secret Life of Walter Mitty
Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted
The Hangover: Part III
Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa
The Hangover (Extended Cut)
Fantastic Mr. Fox
The Darjeeling Limited
The Other Woman
About Last Night
Battle of the Year
The Godfather Part II: The Coppola Restoration
The Godfather: The Coppola Restoration
The Great Gatsby
World War Z (Extended Cut)
Argo (Extended Cut)
The Monuments Men
Kids & Family
How to Train Your Dragon
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
Cloud with a Chance of Meatballs
Puss in Boots
Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs
Toy Story 2
The Princess and the Frog
The Little Mermaid
Ice Age: The Meltdown
Horton Hears a Who
Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
The Wizard of Oz