Apple, Hollywood Studios Said to Discuss Movie Streaming Plan

Apple Inc. is in talks with Hollywood studios about a plan to let consumers buy movies and stream them to the company’s devices, two people familiar with the discussions said.

Apple is seeking agreements to access digital copies of films through its iCloud online storage system, said the people, who declined to be identified because the talks are private.

Studios see online movie “lockers,” with the ability to make content available anytime on a variety of devices, as a way to counter declining sales of DVDs. Such systems may encourage consumers to buy DVDs and Blu-ray disks rather than rent movies through low-cost services such as Coinstar Inc.’s Redbox or stream them through Netflix Inc.

Apple’s iTunes service currently allows customers to rent movies. The new service would enable them to purchase titles and access them anytime from different devices, such as Apple’s iPhone or iPad.

Trudy Muller, a spokeswoman for Cupertino, California-based Apple, declined to comment.

Time Warner Inc.’s Warner Bros. made the comedy “Horrible Bosses” available Oct. 11 through UltraViolet, a similar Web-based system that stores digital copies of purchased films. Sony Corp. and Comcast Corp.’s Universal Pictures have also announced plans to make films available through UltraViolet, a system backed by the Digital Entertainment Content Ecosystem LLC, an alliance of studios and technology companies, including Warner, Comcast and Intel Corp.

Complementary Systems

Studios see the iCloud and UltraViolet as potentially complementary systems that may invigorate sales, according to one of the people.

The studios’ discussions with Apple were reported yesterday by the Los Angeles Times.

Other titles scheduled for UltraViolet release include Warner’s “Green Lantern” and Sony’s “The Smurfs.” Instructions on how to access the movies digitally are included in DVD packaging.

The number of Web-enabled devices that will be able to access content stored in such systems will grow to 780 million units by 2014 from more than 350 million this year, according to Parks Associates, a Dallas-based researcher.