Nearly two years after Apple added paid TV show downloads to U.S. iTunes Store, it has now launched the feature for U.K. customers. And what do we get? American imports like Ugly Betty, South Park and Grey’s Anatomy. Apple first unveiled $1.99 TV downloads back in October 2005, initially in a deal with ABC/Disney. Apple’s U.K. TV launch, announced this morning, consists of the U.S. store’s original lineup, which was later expanded with shows from other broadcasters. But local programming is almost entirely absent amongst the 28-season repertoire, save for a single season of British stand-up, MTV’s Barrio UK and Nickelodeon’s Genie In The House. At £1.89 ($3.81) per download, shows are nearly twice as pricey as in the States.
U.K. customers even get the American version of Pimp My Ride though MTV already broadcasts a homegrown version on TV. Why so slow? In the time it took for this feature to cross the Atlantic, U.K. broadcasters Channel 4, ITV and now BBC have all launched their own on-demand offerings with some U.S. imports but plentiful domestic programming. iTunes Store is far more likely to succeed if it caters to the local market; despite blazing a trail at home, Apple is now playing catch-up on TV here in Europe. But can it win carriage for local shows? My suspicion: Apple doesn’t have the same kind of agreement with U.K. independent TV producers’ representative PACT that has allowed BBC iPlayer, ITV.com and 4OD to offer local programming.
Update: PACT confirmed to paidContent.org that only the U.K.’s public service broadcasters are required by law to set out the terms of digital download use for independent program makers’ material, meaning Apple is free to buy in shows from any individual producers it chooses. Conclusion – Apple either hasn’t yet been able to, or hasn’t tried to, tie up partnerships with any U.K. TV producers for this launch. Apple gave a no-comment to paidContent.org.