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Apple Unveils Enhanced iTunes ‘Extras’ for Apple TV, as Studios Push Digital Movie Sales

Bonus content is aimed at promoting digital ownership of titles

Apple launched a new version of the iTunes Extras feature that will let Apple TV users access bonus content for movies they buy through the service on their HDTVs — and also let studios dynamically update related material for their titles.

The goal for Hollywood is to give consumers new reasons to buy digital movies, instead of renting or watching them on a subscription VOD service, as DVD sales continue to shrink.

“It brings the consumer a whole new level to their homevideo experience,” said Mary Daily, president and CMO for 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment. “Apple is helping to take that digital experience to the next level. You now have a substantial amount of people who have access to additional content on the big screen in the living room.”

The tech giant offers iTunes Extras for several hundred titles, now available with a newly designed interactive interface for Apple TV set-tops. The updated version of Extras also is available for Macs and PCs, and Apple expects to make the updated version of Extras available on iPhone, iPad and iPod touch when it releases iOS 8 this fall.

The Extras content is available with various new releases as well as library titles from several studios, including Disney and Pixar, Fox, Paramount, Sony Pictures Entertainment, Universal, Warner Bros., Lionsgate, Starz Digital Media and A24.

Examples of the bonus content in iTunes Extras include “Scenes,” which compile highlights of compelling moments in an iTunes movie, such as the musical numbers of Disney’s “Frozen,” the epic battles in Warner’s “300: Rise of an Empire” or the songs featured in Sony’s “American Hustle.”

Other bonus content includes cast and crew info with actors’ perspectives on their roles in a film; art and still photography galleries in HD, such as the aesthetic of “The Grand Budapest Hotel” and the conceptual drawings that inspired “Monsters University”; and behind-the-scenes performances of the voice actors in “The Lego Movie.” In addition, Fox’s “Rise of the Planet of the Apes” includes the featurette “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes: Building the Legacy.”

“We are all working together as an industry to make a good consumer proposition, and I think that’s a purchase proposition,” said Mara Winokur, SVP of digital at Starz Digital Media.

Studios are especially bullish on the ability with the new version of Extras to add more bonus material over time — with that extra content automatically appearing in iTunes users’ existing HD movie libraries. That will promote the value of owning a iTunes movie collections, with the promise of digital goodies in the future, execs said.

“The fact that this is cloud-based… allows us to update and enhance the experience at a later time,” said Jason Spivak, exec VP worldwide digital distribution for Sony Pictures Home Entertainment.

That makes iTunes Extras “a living, breathing experience,” said Rebecca Sosa, head of digital distribution for indie studio A24. “This can broaden the palette of what we do with our filmmakers.” For “Under the Skin,” A24 is providing 10 featurettes through iTunes Extras, which also are available on the Blu-ray release (out July 15).

Overall, the iTunes catalog offers more than 85,000 movies worldwide. Apple TV generated more than $1 billion in revenue last year, including sales of devices and content on iTunes, according to CEO Tim Cook. The company said it has sold 20 million Apple TVs through the second quarter of 2014.

In the U.S., iTunes had 64% share of the electronic sell-through market in the second half of 2013, according to research firm IHS. Other players in the EST and digital video rental market include Amazon.com, Google Play, Walmart’s Vudu, M-Go and Target’s Ticket.

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