Chris Morris

Apple has made it official: It will soon offer 99 cent TV show rentals as part of the launch of an extensive revision of its Apple TV service.

Apple said it would offer streaming rentals of skeins from Fox, ABC, ABC Family, Disney Channel and BBC America on a rental basis. Users are able to watch the show for 30 days from the moment the episode is rented, and once it starts playing users have 48 hours to finish watching it.

The new hardware, which will be available in roughly four weeks for $99, is the biggest overhaul of Apple TV since it was introduced in September 2006. Users will no longer be able to purchase films or TV shows. Instead, they will be able to rent new home video releases for $4.99 day and date with the DVD release, and TV segs for 99 cents. The film and TV rentals are expected to begin in about a month, once the hardware becomes available.

"Users want Hollywood movies and TV shows when they want them," Jobs said. "They don't want amateur hour. They want professional content. And they want everything in HD. The HD revolution is over, it's done HD won."

Hollywood's majors have been divided on Apple's TV show rental plan, as evidenced by the lack of programming from NBC and CBS in the announcement. Apple topper Steve Jobs expressed optimism that other networks would "see the light and get on board" with the company "pretty fast."

In a statement, Fox Filmed Entertainment topper Jim Gianopulos indicated that the offering was an experiment for the studio.

"We've enjoyed a long and valuable relationship with Apple and we're excited to be working with them over the next several months to explore this innovative offering," he said.

Among the Fox series to be offered under the plan are contempo hits like "Glee," "Family Guy," "Bones" and "American Dad" and selected titles from the Fox vault, including "Arrested Development," "Buffy the Vampire Slayer," "Lost in Space" and "The Mary Tyler Moore Show."

Disney has been Apple's biggest partner in iTunes from the get-go (Jobs is the largest individual shareholder in the Mouse House, after all), as noted in a statement from Disney-ABC TV Group prexy Anne Sweeney.

"When we put our shows on iTunes five years ago, it was revolutionary," said Sweeney. "Since then, we've continued to provide viewers with innovative new ways to access our programming, and today we're proud to team with Apple on a rental option for fans of our shows."

The new Apple TV will also offer Netflix's instant streaming service, as well as let people stream content from their home PC or Mac.

Additionally, Apple announced "Ping" a new social network revolving around people's music choices.

"It's like Facebook and Twitter meet iTunes," said Jobs. "It's a social network all about music."

The service will let users follow friends and artists, putting together a suggested playlist based on their picks -- as well as listing upcoming concerts they might enjoy.

The company also unveiled new versions of three iPods -- the Shuffle, Nano and Touch along with a revision of its iOS operating system for its mobile devices.

Cynthia Littleton contributed to this report.