Peter Kafka

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Rupert Murdoch Makes Peace with “Pirate” Google, Starts Selling Movies

At the beginning of 2012, Rupert Murdoch was railing against Google, labeling it the “piracy leader.”

But that was January! Now Murdoch’s 20th Century Fox studio has cut a deal to sell and rent its movies and TV shows via the search giant’s YouTube and Google Play portals.

The announcement means Google has agreements with all of the major Hollywood studios. That brings the company to parity with competitors like Apple and Amazon, and it may be more symbolic than anything, since none of the digital outlets have been significant revenue generators for the studios so far.

But Fox is hoping to change that with a new digital sales push. It is cutting the price for new movies like “Prometheus” to $15 from its usual $20, and offering them earlier than it has in the past: You can buy the movie today, three weeks before it will appear on discs and pay-TV operators’ video-on-demand stores.

Fox will market “Prometheus” hard at every digital outlet it can find, including those run by Apple, Amazon, Microsoft and Sony. But people familiar with the studio’s plans say it is counting on a significant assist from Google, which means you’re likely to see prominent ads for the movie on YouTube and on other Google properties. (News Corp. also owns this Web site.)

Okay. So what about the whole piracy thing? Neither Google or News Corp. officials are commenting about a rapprochement.

But last month Google did announce that it would start making it harder for pirate sites to show up in its search results, a move that drew praise from both the movie and music industries.

Perhaps that, combined with a need to shore up a flagging DVD business, was enough to change Murdoch’s mind. If so, the detente could have an impact on his other dealings with Google’s entertainment ventures, like Google TV and its Google Fiber project, both of which News Corp. has yet to support.

Alternate theory: Murdoch has simply been overwhelmed by Sergey Brin’s Google Glass specs, which he labled “genius,” after a Fashion Week event this month.

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