By MIGUEL HELFT and BROOKS BARNES
Warner Brothers became the first major media company to offer a movie for rent on Facebook, a move that could position the social network to become a force in the digital distribution of movies, rivaling services like Netflix and iTunes.
Heath Ledger as the Joker in “The Dark Knight,” which Warner Brothers will rent to American users over Facebook for the equivalent of $3 in Facebook’s currency.
Warner said on Tuesday that it would allow Facebook users in the United States to rent the film “The Dark Knight” directly on the social networking site, and pay for it using Credits, Facebook’s virtual currency. If other studios make similar moves, Facebook could tap a significant revenue stream, bolstering its Credits currency as it seeks to create a rival to PayPal and other payment systems.
Warner said it might make other movies available on Facebook over time.
“This is definitely a test,” said Thomas Gewecke, president of Warner Brothers Digital Distribution, in a telephone interview.