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Report suggests AirPlay affecting iTunes online movie share


At least, that's the conclusion research firm IHS came to upon seeing growth in Apple's online video sales. Apparently Apple, up against competition from Walmart (Vudu) and Amazon, saw its market share go up from 64.9% in the first half of 2010 to 65.8% in the first half of 2011. Not exactly stock-enlarging numbers, I realize. There's also the fact that this report leaves Netflix completely out of the equation. But IHS found that "...iTunes experienced the largest revenue increase growth among all online movie providers during the first half" which is very good news for stockholders.

Obviously, Netflix still has the lion's share of online video rentals. Back in March NPD reported Netflix represented a whopping 61 percent of all viewings of "digital streaming and downloadable video." Apple tied with DirecTV and Time Warner in that survey, which was, again, video rentals, not sales. Note that Netflix doesn't sell you a movie -- you can only rent them. That distinction is the difference between the IHS report and NPD's.

As to AirPlay, I'm not sure how much of a difference it makes to the average person. I would say the lower-priced Apple TV 2, which has been selling well, has become a gateway drug for video purchasers. IHS says AirPlay has "expanded the reach of iTunes to new platforms" but what new platforms? Your TV? I'd love to know how many people are renting or buying on their Mac, but watch on their Apple TV, or use AirPlay in some fashion.

It's all in how you look at the numbers and purchasing patterns, and in the end Apple and each service knows more about this than any of us. Netflix is certainly a powerhouse, but, as Fortune's Philip Elmer-Dewitt points out, even Netflix stands in the shadow of DVD sales overall. We're a long way from ditching discs, apparently.

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