iTunes Partners Starting To Get Fidgety

from the let's-go-month-to-month,-please dept

It's no secret that the entertainment companies have been less than thrilled with the power position wielded by Apple with iTunes. They've tried -- and failed -- to force Apple to change its pricing (even though that sounds quite a lot like price fixing) and they generally seem upset that Apple is getting all the credit for revolutionizing the digital music world, while people look on the big entertainment companies as out of step with what Americans want while struggling to hang on to an antiquated business model. With that in mind, it wasn't all that surprising last month to see Universal Music refuse to renew its contract with Apple, preferring to go on the equivalent of a month to month basis. Universal Music also didn't include Apple in its trial of DRM-free downloads -- which is doubly amusing since it was only following the stringent demands of companies like Universal Music that Apple agreed to use DRM. Now it seems that the separate company NBC Universal is following the lead of its former sister company. The company is refusing to renew its iTunes deal for offering downloadable NBC TV shows. Of course, this news also comes as we inch closer to NBC Universal's own video website, officially named Hulu so hoarding videos for itself may be part of the strategy (which would be typical backwards thinking, but that comes as no surprise). It looks like, once again, we're basically going to have a totally fragmented market for online video. That certainly wouldn't be good for Apple, but it would likely hurt NBC Universal too. In the meantime, though, Apple may be facing a challenge as more companies fail to renew their contracts. Update: Apple seems to believe that NBC Universal needs Apple more than the other way around. Rather than waiting for NBC to pull its shows, Apple has apparently kicked them off.

Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 31st, 2007 @ 8:46am

    Last year, I was never able to watch Heroes when it was on Monday night, so I downloaded a lot of episodes from iTunes, even though I know I could watch it for free on the NBC website. I just don't like watching it that way. If they keep Heroes on Monday night, come January, I'll have to find some other way to watch the show. I'm not going to buy a DVR or hook up my ancient VCR for one show. I'll certainly give hulu a shot, but if they want me to jump through a bunch of hoops to watch the show, I won't do it.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2. identicon
    Ajax 4Hire, Aug 31st, 2007 @ 8:47am

    Fist in the velvet glove is not

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 31st, 2007 @ 8:47am


    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 31st, 2007 @ 8:51am

    as long as you can put it on your ipod, i dont care if it comes from itunes or not. If you cant put it on your ipod, then whatever company is distributing is has basically suicided their effort, because apple has pretty much won the portable music hardware war.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5. identicon
    Mike B, Aug 31st, 2007 @ 8:58am

    NBC Shows

    Much like AC, I also get most of my shows from iTunes, rather than the myriad websites. I like watching them on my AppleTV. I like having them on demand, and being able to watch them online or off. If NBC pulls out in Jan, it backs to bittorrents for many of us, and they go back to losing money.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6. identicon
    NPGMBR, Aug 31st, 2007 @ 9:11am

    Great Opportunity For NBC.....

    to partner with all the other download sites that counter iTunes. That market has been neglected because so much attention has been given to Apple, but we'll see what happens.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7. identicon
    EM, Aug 31st, 2007 @ 9:30am

    Dramatic rise in bandwidth seen by bit torrents. N

    All kidding aside, I think that Universal's move is fairly stupid. Apple is right on with the pricing. There is minimal cost overhead for providing downloads of electronic content in comparison to CDs. The price point is just good enough for people to consider downloading it from Apple legally opposed to some file sharing network like bit torrent. And as for television shows, it's just convenient enough to consider downloading an episode for $.99 instead of doing it yourself. Although I'm planning to hook my DVR to a DVD player and then convert the DVD to MPEG 4 for play on my Apple TV because there are more programs than those on NBC that I want to watch. Again the big studios are looking to cut off their nose despite their face. They should keep a good thing going even though in their greedy little minds they feel they could make more money by going off on their own.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8. identicon
    mac84, Aug 31st, 2007 @ 10:05am

    Interesting play, Apple may have alternatives

    Obviously the universals don't like Apple's terms but I'm not sure the content is enough of a factor to really hurt apple a lot. There is a large base of AAC enabled players out there and unless these UMG and NBC/Universal support it, there offerings are aimed at 1/3 to 1/4 of the market. There are many ways to get content into iTunes and Apple itself admits that their iPod customers get most of their content other ways than via the iTunes music store. So long as the studios lock out unprotected formats the market will be stunted.

    I'm not sure mainstream america is ready for the risk of lawsuits that torrents bring, nor the long download times of any online distribution. Solutions like EyeTV and TIVO look more and more attractive.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9. identicon
    Keith Shaw, Aug 31st, 2007 @ 10:10am

    The real Headline...

    "NBC Universal and other companies say they want to increase prices..." -- the original New York Times article. p;en=c4b8ade2029b7acd&ei=5087%0A&oref=slogin

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10. identicon
    Hyphen, Aug 31st, 2007 @ 10:11am


    I was going to suggest getting a DVR. It cost me an additional $6 a month through my cable company, and it's a HI-DEF DVR so I can record all of my favorite shows like House, Bones, and stuff from Discovery in HI-DEF format. Maybe you should rethink the idea of getting one. Plus, the DVR lets you watch TV the way you want.

    Give it a whirl.....
    $1.99 a show x 4 weeks a month = $7.96
    $7.96 x the # of shows you download a month = more than a DVR

    The DVRs will even let you attach your OWN USB external drive so you can have more space to keep your tv shows and movies on.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11. identicon
    August west, Aug 31st, 2007 @ 10:20am

    Do people still watch NBC?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12. identicon
    Anonymous Sloth, Aug 31st, 2007 @ 10:40am


    3. by Anonymous Coward on Aug 31st, 2007 @ 8:47am

    ... Hahaha, you lose.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13. identicon
    Anonymous Sloth, Aug 31st, 2007 @ 10:41am

    Re: Do people still watch NBC?

    Not I.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 31st, 2007 @ 10:58am

    Re: Re:

    Although technically to make a decent cost comparison of paying your cable company for a DVR to iTunes you should take into the costs of cable service. Since more and more people are abandoning cable/satellite service all together for totally online sources of entertainment.

    Now technically, a real cost/benefit analysis of maintaining DVRs vs iTunes, would require taking into account the percentage of cost of equipment used to access the program (i.e. television, computer, iPod), the cost of access (i.e. internet, cable, OTA), and the feature difference (i.e. mobility, time-shifting, format restrictions, quality).

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  15. identicon
    MPAA is done, Aug 31st, 2007 @ 11:27am

    Re: Interesting play, Apple may have alternatives

    Not sure about the Windows side, but Toast titanium 8.x has a tivo conversion utility. You just run an ethernet cable from your tivo box to your router/switch and import directly into taost for recording in various formats. This sounds like the path of least resistance. Bit torrents are too slow for me, I prefer direct ripping of whatever media. Let's see media tards catch that. BTW that stupid warning on every dvd really scares me.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  16. identicon
    pandlcg, Aug 31st, 2007 @ 11:29am

    $4.99 per episode

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  17. identicon
    m74k3H, Aug 31st, 2007 @ 11:42am

    Their Choice

    I'll make it real simple for Universal and NBC and anyone else.

    I have a MacBook, and I download music and shows through iTunes. If the song/show is not on iTunes, then I don't buy it ( I did make an exception for the Beatles, Led Zeppelin, and Scott Walker).

    But I don't need anything else enough that it's worth finding another outlet, unless it's YouTube.

    And I agree with a previous poster, what does NBC have anyway? Other than occasionally Leno, I watch nothing on that network, and I wouldn't pay for Leno in any case.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  18. identicon
    His Shadow, Aug 31st, 2007 @ 11:43am

    Re: Suicided

    You are not wrong. It's fine that there are companies willing to try something different, but how exactly was it hurting them letting someone else handle the infrastructure required to get their product on the most popular media player in the world? They did jack squat but make their content available and Apple did the rest, then cut the providers a cheque.

    They weren't making enough money? Wait til the costs start skyrocketing for building a digital storefront from scratch with other companies whose every effort has been a spectacular failure.

    And what is with this infatuation with variable pricing? Consumers don't want it. That's the last word. It doesn't matter what the provider wants to charge. If there is no market, it's a dead issue.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  19. identicon
    AJ, Aug 31st, 2007 @ 11:58am

    Dept. of Not Getting It

    My personal choice is to have everything in iTunes. If I can't find it on iTunes, that's when I resort to "other means". I like my setup - a nice big iPod and an Apple TV with iTunes as a central hub. Your preferences may differ, but the point is that the media companies should be striving to make content available in as many places and in as many formats as possible. If it's easy to buy / rent content then most people will choose to go the ligit route. Make it hard and you just encourage piracy. They should buy a clue.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  20. identicon
    Bruce F. Webster, Aug 31st, 2007 @ 12:50pm

    Price fixing?

    Isn't it price fixing when you conspire to keep the prices artificially high? Most of the disputes I've seen to date between Apple and its partners are that they want to charge _more_, not less. ..bruce..

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  21. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 31st, 2007 @ 1:39pm

    Apple has AIDS.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  22. identicon
    kyle, Aug 31st, 2007 @ 2:00pm

    apple has retaliated already

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  23. identicon
    kyle, Aug 31st, 2007 @ 2:01pm


    didnt see the update at the end of the article.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  24. identicon
    Cleverboy, Aug 31st, 2007 @ 6:54pm

    Re: Re: Hyphen

    Believe it or not, there are people WITHOUT cable, Hyphen. Also, believe it or not, there are people with cable AND a cable provided DVR that STILL... STILL buy from iTunes, because its simply more convenient to their lifestyle. Also, so your cable-company provided DVR allows you to hook up a USB hard drive to it, and transfer videos directly to your computer? The more details you gloss over, the less I think you know much about what you're saying. I have at least one friend who talked fondly of such a feature on his cable system. Same friend discovered 30 Rock through iTunes and bought the season, while feverishly ripping DVDs from Netflix and Blockbuster.

    We humans are creatures of habit and numerous idiosyncracies with our buying habits. NBC is simply screwing the pooch on this one. I'll be waving goodbye to many of my iTunes shows and looking out for new ones from less STUPID companies.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  25. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Sep 1st, 2007 @ 12:07pm

    As the number three music store, I expect content to be on the iTunes store. If it's not, I WILL STEAL IT! These music companies need to recognize that pulling content off the iTunes store is suicide. Would they pull music out of Walmart or Best Buy? I don't think so!

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  26. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 26th, 2008 @ 9:01pm


    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

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