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Saturday, December 29, 2007, 05:45 pm PT (08:45 pm ET)

New report claims 24-hour, variable price iTunes rentals

Adding to the media frenzy surrounding possible iTunes movie rentals, a Hollywood magazine alleges that Apple's rentals will only last for short stretches of time and will use a flexible price structure.

Variety refers to supposed studio contacts which say that rented movie downloads from iTunes will last for just 24 hours before becoming unplayable. The report did not say how many plays would be allowed during the period.

However, Apple may rely on price and not longevity to lure in customers, according to the magazine. While some rentals will cost $5 each — placing their rental prices close to those of new releases at retail outlets — some will cost as little as $2.

No mention is made of the reasoning for the price system, though it may parallel Apple's variable price system for purchased movies, which discounts older titles.

The claimed sources also mirror information reported previously which suggests that Disney and Fox are the only two studios known to be pledging support for rentals. Other studios friendly to Apple's video efforts, such as Lionsgate, MGM, and Paramount, are described as candidates. Conversely, studios such as Sony, Universal, and Warner Bros. have "various competitive reasons" to keep their videos out of the service, Variety adds.

The latter may allude to Apple's spat with NBC-Universal, which has seen NBC TV shows pulled from iTunes. Universal Music Group has also opted out of long-term iTunes music contracts and excluded Apple from its protection-free music offerings.

Like all reports so far, however, the trade publication is certain about the date: its purported insiders state that Apple will announce movie rentals at next month's Macworld San Francisco expo.