Apple iTunes Movie Re-Downloads Not Coming Anytime Soon

Bad news for iTunes users that may have lost their movie purchases through data loss: users won't be able to re-download or stream their purchased movies to any PC or iOS device in the near future, thanks to movie studios and HBO.

There were claims last week that a service named iTunes Replay was on the verge of launching. The basic idea of the service was that by putting iTunes purchases in the cloud, Apple would allow users to re-download almost any movie purchased after January 2009 and stream their content to a Mac or Windows PC, and possibly iOS devices. Users can already stream rented or purchased iTunes movie and TV content to an Apple TV, so bringing playback to other devices seemed to be a logical step.

The movie studios will have none of that, however. Apple has yet to secure deals with at least four of the six major Hollywood film studios, and it seems Replay is being held up in part because of what is called the "HBO window," which is a period of time when HBO has the exclusive digital distribution rights for movies from Warner Bros., 20th Century Fox and Universal. The agreement also prevents services like Amazon video on demand and Netflix from delivering premium titles during HBO's exclusive distribution period. This agreement could foreseeably cause problems for Apple, and what makes it worse is that HBO's window can last anywhere from six to 18 months.

To top it off, while the movie studios are in fact eager to see the agreement with HBO disappear, they are also anxious to see their own proprietary "buy once, stream everywhere" scheme, named UltraViolet, get off the ground. Apple Replay would be a direct competitor to such a service, so it would be in their best interests to hold out against Apple for as long as possible.

Overall, this puts a damper on Apple's attempts to move iTunes content to the cloud, as movies appear to be the last major item not yet included in the iTunes cloud services. Apple announced in June that users will be able to re-download their music with the arrival of iOS 5 and their iCloud service this fall, and recent changes to iTunes have made TV shows directly accessible across iTunes-compatible devices.