Facebook Movie Rentals: The Pros and Cons

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Are you planning on renting and watching "The Dark Knight" through Facebook? Chances are you've already seen the movie a thousand times over. But for those of you that haven't seen the latest Batman movie, Warner Bros. announced Tuesday that you could rent "The Dark Knight" for 48 hours and watch it as many time as you like on Facebook for 30 Facebook credits ($3). The movie is only available for streaming in the United States and requires you to authorize a special Facebook application. Warner Bros. says it plans to offer more movie titles on Facebook in the coming months.

The prospect of using Facebook as a premium video streaming platform is interesting, but the trial program is not going to blow away Netflix any time soon. Nevertheless, the idea of watching a movie and chatting with your Facebook friends at the same time may be an attractive feature for some.

Here's a look at some of the pluses and minuses of streaming movies on Facebook.

Pro: Convenience

Americans are already spending nearly 13 percent of their online time spent on Facebook, according to comScore. So it makes sense to offer new digital services to such a captive audience. That is, if you can drag people away from watering digital crops on Farmville, commenting on photos and liking their favorite brands long enough to watch a full-length movie.

Con: Sharing with the corporate entity

But to watch "The Dark Knight" you have to pay to play, and I'm not just talking about forking over $3 worth of Facebook credits. "The Dark Knight" streaming app wants access to your basic Facebook information including your name, profile picture, gender, networks, user ID, list of friends and anything you've publicly shared on Facebook. That's a lot of ripe information for marketing departments to salivate over.

Pro: Sharing with friends

Not only can you watch "The Dark Knight" but you can make comments on the movie as you watch it and post status updates. But you don't appear to be able to watch the movie at the same time as your friends as you can with some Blu-ray titles.

Con: Selection not promising

So far Warner Bros is the only movie studio experimenting with movie streaming on Facebook and the company is offering just one title. Selling a movie that's nearly three years old as your first entry into online video streaming is not a promising start. Most people have already seen the film, and if you bought a Blu-ray player in the last two years chances are "The Dark Knight" was one of the first discs you bought.

So it's no surprise that Facebook users don't appear to be particularly interested in Warner Bros.' lame offering. At the time of this writing, the "Watch The Dark Knight from Warner Bros." Facebook app had only 1,759 monthly active users.

Con: Won't beat Netflix

For $3 you can rent "The Dark Knight" and watch it as many times as you like within a 48-hour period via Facebook. On Netflix, you can stream movies as many times as you like within a one-month period for as little as $8 - "The Dark Knight" is currently unavailable via Netflix streaming.

You can only watch Warner Bros.' movie streaming via Facebook on a PC; while Netflix streaming is available on your PC, and numerous televisions, set-top boxes and mobile devices. Unless studios offering video streaming via Facebook improve offerings to include subscription services or drastically cheaper prices, Netflix has little to worry about.

Connect with Ian Paul ( @ianpaul ) and Today@PCWorld on Twitter for the latest tech news and analysis.

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