Apple will face several challenges in bringing its iTunes Movie Rentals service to the European market, according to a new report. During his keynote address last week, Apple CEO Steve Jobs said that he was “dying” to expand the service internationally, and added that it would happen later this year. The International Herald Tribune reports that in order to make that happen, the company will need to overcome “legal and regulatory hurdles, copyright challenges, scheduling conflicts and technological issues.” “The biggest challenge that we have is just the structure of the market,” said Kevin Obi, senior vice president for digital assets at NBC Universal in London. Earlier this month, the European Commission warned that significant barriers face those attempting to develop digital media distribution in its 27 member countries. “Europe’s content sector is suffering under its regulatory fragmentation, under its lack of clear, consumer-friendly rules for accessing copyright-protected online content, and serious disagreements between stakeholders about fundamental issues” like copying of digital works, said Viviane Reding, the EU commissioner who oversees media, in a statement. Reding said that she would propose ways to make it easier to sell content online by midyear.
Other challenges facing Apple include the system of staggered release schedules for films both in theaters and on DVD, which often vary from country to country. “Content distribution in Europe is very tricky,” said Carl Gressum, a senior analyst in London with Ovum, a telecommunications and media consultancy. “It’s very hard to do pan-European deals.” In addition, some politicians worry that making it easier to sell movies across the European market might also widen the door for Hollywood films, which is a problem in smaller countries that fear it could cause a decline in their own cultural industries. Despite the challenges, the article suggests, Apple may be more familiar with these challenges than most of its competitors, due to its negotiations with the European Commission over iTunes pricing, which led to Apple lowering its iTunes Store music prices in the UK to match those across the rest of the continent.