Aussies Still Can’t Rent TV On The Apple TV

Aussies Still Can’t Rent TV On The Apple TV

The emphasis in the newly updated and miniaturised Apple TV is all about renting media. However, despite its name, for users in Australia, media only equals movies, and for that reason it’s a somewhat less appealing upgrade.

The idea of being able to rent new-release TV episodes in HD for $US0.99 is pretty appealing, and Apple apparently considered it so important that it’s at the very top of the US press release announcing the latest incarnation of the Apple TV, which goes on sale later this month for $129. However, it’s not going to be an option in Australia (or indeed anywhere other than the States), unless you take the not-all-that-uncommon step of setting up a US iTunes account for yourself. Here, we can only rent movies, with $6.99 being the set price for new HD releases.

This gap in availability is hardly unusual. Apple’s approach with every single media format it has worked with (music, TV, movies and books) has been to roll it out in the US first and then hit other world markets later. Later is often much later: the iTunes store got to Australia more than two years after it debuted in America. On the books front, we still don’t have a launch date for iBooks in Australia, and the alternatives are a bit messy.

Now, before the usual round of “typical Apple hater” comments start, I realise that the system whereby TV rights are assigned to different worldwide markets existed long before Apple got into the media business. To a massive extent, it’s the fault of the TV networks that we’re stuck in this situation right now.

On the other hand, Apple’s power in the digital media market at this stage dwarfs any other company. Had it demanded worldwide availability for some shows, it might have had the clout to pull that off. If anyone was going to engineer a change, it would be Apple, and from an Aussie perspective it’s a shame that hasn’t happened.

With that said, even a rights deal couldn’t solve the other problem with renting any form of digital media in Australia: how quickly it will chew through your download cap. Yes, you can avoid that if you’re an iiNet subscriber, and yes, it seems like less of an issue as terabyte download plans become more common. But with the future of broadband particularly cloudy in post-election Australia, chewing up a chunk of bandwidth for a movie you only plan to watch once seems a little wasteful. If I’m going to do that, I figure I might as well buy the movie outright.

Excited by the prospect of the Apple TV? Prefer your movies in physical form? Figure it’s still easier to head to Channel BT? Tell us in the comments.


  • So if I bought an AppleTV and created a US iTunes account, could I then rent US television episodes and/or use Netflix from within AUS?

    If I could, I’d strongly consider buying one. I wouldn’t want to rent Aussie TV shows anyway.

    • Yes to the US rentals. No to the Netflix, essentially (as you need a separate Netflix account as well). Though you can do the rentals through iTunes without buying the Apple TV — that’s just a means of streaming them around the house.

  • Ok. So it is a bit of a let down.

    People, I have a question for you:

    Apple TV ($129) or T-Box ($299)?

    What do you think?

    I am thinking Apple may be a better option…
    Please comment

    • Not really a comparison — the Apple TV is not a PVR, it’s a streaming device. Definitely costs less, but doesn’t have storage or tuners. On the other hand, it doesn’t tie you to a specific ISP for 24 months. Would very much depend on your context — I can’t easily construct a scenario where the two would be direct alternatives.

      • My scenario:

        Have Austar MystarHD (gosh, I miss Foxtel after moving). The content is OK but I could do with a decent ‘on-demand’ Movie service. PVR and TV taken care of by Austar anyway. 100Gb per month covers enough movie downloads from iTunes (T-Box bandwidth would be free).

        I am really interested in the downloadable content on Apple vs T-Box. Most readers here probably have Foxtel or Austar anyway, so it would come down to content supply and usability.

  • Bigpond movies has had TV rentals for ages, and that TV is now available online, on T-Box and some LG IPTVs (Netcast models). More devices coming soon. T-Box can be purchased outright for $300 – no contract needed for existing customers unless they want a discounted box. Bigpond movies TV shows are unmetered for Bigpond customers, but anybody with a decent recent plan can download them (if you can afford the cap hit for torrents, you can afford to download rentals!).

    Yes, rights are an issue, but it is also possible Apple is just asking for shows at a price that undercuts regional DVD sales so much that it kills studio profits (which pay to make those shows …). Apple sells devices, not content – the content is an inducement to make you buy their gadgets.

    BTW, yes I do consulting work for Telstra.

  • Until we get unmetered itunes on all ISPs, and reasonable content provided to AUS iTunes accounts, this is not going to take off.

    In reply to your article, Apple only managed to have the clout to pull this off with a couple of broadcasters so far in the US. I think they will prove their worth with them first, then manage to get the rest. Until the ad people manage to work out a way of manipulating this into some form of marketing mechanism, it’s not really going to pull off elsewhere.

    But we can hope.

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