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Report: iTunes 'Replay' streaming service nears

Streaming and re-downloadable movies and TV shows are said to be headed to iTunes in the form of the Replay feature. Once rumored to launch in 2009, a new report says the feature is ready.

The long-rumored service from Apple that would let users grab movies and TV shows from the cloud as opposed to relying on downloaded files is said to be on the verge of launching.

Blog AppAdvice today said Apple is "on the edge" of rolling out iTunes Replay, a feature that was originally expected to make it into iTunes 8 in 2009 as a way to stream movies and TV shows, negating the need to fill up local storage with those files.

At the beginning of this week, a software update to the Apple TV and back-end changes in iTunes on the desktop and iOS devices let users re-download and stream purchased TV shows that might have been lost due to hardware failure or accidentally deleted. Movies were notably left out of the equation, and the re-downloading feature was not given any name.

According to AppAdvice's report, Apple is giving content that's been licensed for replay a special icon to denote that it can be re-downloaded, since not all content is expected to be included at launch. The report also claims that there could be additional rules that limit the number of times content can be downloaded, presumably to require that users purchase another license if they abuse the system.

Apple in June took the wraps off iCloud, a cloud service that can both back up and move files between devices. An important part of that effort, and what was made available well ahead of its coming release this fall, was the capability to re-download previously purchased music tracks and applications. In the case of music tracks this was a landmark move since, like movies and TV content, users became responsible for that downloaded file following purchase, and were unable to re-grab previously purchased files.

In the run-up to iCloud, sources told CNET that Apple was in talks with the movie studios, but had run into several problems, including the so-called HBO window or HBO blackout. This exclusivity agreement between HBO and three of the top six film studios requires that other outlets halt sales or distribution of a title if it's currently on HBO, preventing others from distributing that product while in the HBO window.

As for AppAdvice's rumor track record, this particular report comes from Alexander Vaughn, who correctly pegged the iBooks pricing ahead of an official announcement.