Prices Revealed in NBC/Apple Spat over iTunes

by Paul William Tenny

tv-movie-download.jpgAs has been speculated about over the past couple of weeks, the spat between NBC Universal and Apple over prices for TV shows on iTunes revolved around Apple wanting to sell them for less, and NBC wanting to sell them for more. A lot more in fact. According to this piece at IGN, Apple wants to start selling individual episodes for TV shows at the same price they currently sell individual songs for: 99 cents each. NBC on the other hand wants to hike the price from the current $1.99 to a laughable $4.99 - making the price for a full season of a given show an outrageous $119.76.

What's hard to believe is how NBC can expect to charge consumers over one-hundred dollars for a full season of Heroes, wrapped in Windows-only DRM at inferior bitrates and resolutions, when the recently released DVD box set only costs $36, nearly a third of the digital downloads if NBC has its way. Also, what does this say about the value of music at 99 cents? Is a 4-minute song worth a 44-minute episode of Lost? Hardly. Does that mean Apple wants to cut the price of songs by half as well?
I have some mixed feelings on this because I'm a strong opponent of DRM. With these videos only playable on Windows PC's, with degraded quality, and the inability to burn them and play them on DVD players or stream them across a LAN (my recently 10mbit-to-100mbit upgrade means no longer having to re-compress streaming-DVDs) I'd value an individual episode at roughly 83 cents each, or about $20 for the whole season. That's all I'd be willing to spend on what amounts to a 15-year-old Honda junker.

Without DRM, $1.99 is still more than the video is worth, given that the video quality is still inferior to standard definition DVD (forget about HI-DEF) and the money you have to go and spend on blank DVDs to burn them. If you subtract the cost of the physical creation and distribution of a DVD box set, I'm thinking you'd probably go from $36 down to $23, when divided across 24 episodes, you've got what Apple is shooting for: roughly a buck each.

If the studios and networks want to charge a premium (unethical, but comprises make the world go 'round) and go to say $1.50 (the exact price of the Heroes box set) then I'd call that a fair deal - minus the DRM of course.

What do you think? Leave a comment and let us know.


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