Universal joins iCloud service

Fox now only major studio not participating

One of the last studio holdouts for Apple’s iCloud service has joined the fold.

Films from Universal Pictures purchased via iTunes can now be re-downloaded through the tech company’s iCloud program. That leaves only Fox among major studios not participating — a stance that’s expected to end in the near future.

Both studios have previously been unable to participate in iCloud due to an exclusive licensing agreement with HBO. (If a viewer who had wanted to watch a Fox or Universal film purchased via iTunes on a different device during the cable channels exclusive distribution window, that would have violated the agreement.)

The cabler has been working with both studios, however, to clear up the conflicts. Last month, HBO spokesperson Jeff Cusson told AllThingsD, “With every technological enhancement, we have always been able to find common ground with our studio partners, and we’re sure that will be the result here.”

The change means customers who have previously downloaded a Universal film, such as “Cowboys & Aliens” or “Knocked Up,” can re-download them at no cost on all of their Apple devices. Lionsgate, Sony, Disney, Paramount and Warner Bros. already offer their films via the service.

iCloud is a lynchpin in Apple’s slow expansion into the living room. Through it, iPhone and iPad users who have purchased films (or TV programming) to watch while on the go are now also able to watch them through an Apple TV device.

And should the company produce its long-rumored television set, it would add a layer of convenience — and automatic content — for potential customers.

iCloud has had the support of music labels and television producers since its launch in late 2011, but Apple delayed films, in hopes of getting all major studios on board. When it was unable to secure them, it moved forward with the launch last month.

While they continue to work together, Apple and the Hollywood studios are also competitors of sorts, as filmmakers have begun embracing the Ultraviolet cloud service — a new, proprietary service allowing customers to watch digital versions of the films they purchase on DVD or Blu-ray. (Customers can also bring in older films they’ve bought to a Wal-Mart store and have them digitally uploaded for between $2 and $5 apiece.)

While Apple has been invited to join that program, it has declined to do so.

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