Studio films going day-and-date at iTunes Store

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Apple is expected to announce today that it has struck a deal with a wide array of major and mini studios to offer many new releases for purchase at its iTunes Store.

The move would allow a broad slate of top-shelf films to be offered day-and-date with home video releases, which risks cannibalizing DVD sales.

The new arrangement with the studios is expected to involve Fox, Walt Disney Studios, Warner Bros., Paramount, Universal, Sony Pictures, Lionsgate and New Line. The deal does not include new titles from MGM but does extend to such boutique firms as Magnolia and Image Entertainment.

The deal comes on the heels of Apple's announcement in January that it had signed all of the studios to movie rentals, with each title costing just $3-$4 for consumers to access for a 30-day period. Movie purchases, however, could cost as much as $15.

Apple hasn't moved as aggressively on film as it has in TV, with most download-to-own devoted to older titles in studio libraries. But Apple's success with those deals, which included MGM, Disney and Paramount, likely encouraged studios to take the next step.

In March, Disney CEO Bob Iger publicly estimated that the conglomerate had sold 4 million movies via iTunes since it became the first studio to try download-to-own in 2006. A few major new releases already have been made available day-and-date in recent weeks on iTunes, including Fox's "Juno."

Today's announcement is expected to contain new data on the success of Apple's movie revenue to date.

The news follows Wednesday's disclosure by Time Warner CEO Jeffrey Bewkes that Warner Bros. will experiment with VOD releases day-and-date with DVD.

The announcement originally was expected to be released earlier, perhaps timed to the fifth anniversary of iTunes, which was Monday. But the announcement was pushed to early Thursday.

Such a move would put significant pressure on iTunes competitors including Amazon's Unbox and Microsoft XBox Live Markeplace.

Apple did not respond to a request for comment. (partialdiff)
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