Tuesday, September 4, 2007

NBCU Madness

Whoa. Ego will cause some really wacky results. As has been widely written about, NBCU is pulling its shows off iTunes at the end of the contract. Apple, since it wasn’t going to be able to offer “seasons passes” anyway, and probably to stick it to NBCU a little decided to just go ahead and pull the shows from NBCU (all the NBC content plus other shows like Battlestar Gallactica) at the start of the new season.

Today it was announced that NBCU has done a deal with Amazon to make the shows available via Amazon Unbox. The price? $1.99 — NOT the $4.99 NBCU was allegedly trying to stick to Apple iTunes customers. Additionally, there’s a 30% discount for the season passes. For a brief moment in time, the shows live in both places and it’s easy to do the comparitive pricing. Individual episodes are $1.99 on both services, but the season pass on iTunes for Heroes Season 1 is $42.99, and via Amazon Unbox it’s only $31.99. It looks like a really good deal on price.

But there are downsides. First, the Unbox content only works with Windows and with Tivo. Mac video fanboys, you’re outta luck. Second, if you’re without a Tivo, you’re locked into using the “Unbox Player”. Translation, good luck getting that on your Apple TV, iPod or iPhone.

I always thought the season pass pricing on iTunes was ridiculous. It’s definitely better on Amazon, but the downside is the media isn’t really yours to do whatever you want with. You’re locked into certain ways of watching it. In fairness, due to DRM protection this was also mostly true with iTunes but at least I could buy content and get it right on my iPhone, and at least Steve J. is striving to end all DRM.

The $31.99 on unbox is at least cheaper than the $38.99 I can buy the actual boxed set of DVDs with actor and director commentary, fancy booklets, etc. from Amazon for. Apple’s season pass is more than the DVDs!

NBCU won’t sell as many shows on Amazon. Period. And when it comes crawling back to the gang in Cupertino and is back on iTunes, it will be with the same pricing as Amazon.

But here’s the thing, NBC probably generates more revenue from the broadcast advertising on its worst rated show than it makes with a years worth of sales on iTunes. Bottom line is right now this is just fun stuff to write about. The real world does not yet care.

(originally posted on TVbytheNumbers.com)

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