Will iTunes Kill Cable?



I don’t watch a lot of television, so for me, the iTunes music store’s growing list of shows available for commercial-free download is great. If this keeps up, I might be able to do away with the cable company all together. Oh, what a wonderful day that would be.

There is just one problem – the cost. I like Law & Order as much as the next guy, but I have a hard time with the idea of paying $34.99, half of one month’s cable bill, just for one season of Criminal Intent. Of course, that does include all 14 episodes in the current season as well as the rest of the season. And, it is actually less than the $42.99 it will cost for all of season 1.

This is where the math bothers me. It costs $42.99 to get all 22 episodes of season 1 through iTunes, 4 cents less per episode than downloading them each at $1.99, but the same shows on DVD over at Amazon cost only $29.97. What gives?

The Season Pass works out a little better, but it’ll still cost $1.59 per episode assuming the current season also has 22 shows.

I’m also a big fan of Scrubs, and when iTunes added to their line-up, I was really excited. I even bought a couple of shows I had already missed, but why does each 21-minute episode cost the same as a 43-minute episode of Lost. How about a little break here?

Season Passes are a great idea, and I hope iTunes will continue adding them. I also hope they will look closer at their rate structure. Commercial-free television is worth a little extra, but three Season Passes will add up to nearly $100 quickly.

Maybe iTunes could consider a small amount of advertising for the television shows to offset the cost. I wouldn’t mind a 30 second spot at the start of the episode if the rest of the show were uninterrupted. They could even offer a commercial-free download at a higher price for those willing to pay it.



damn good points. hopefully it will be worked out in the long run.
i can’t imagine even steve has an easy job (no pun intended) dealing w/ the jackasses of the major networks…..
let’s hope it comes down, but im not holding my breath.
easy fix…. a good friend w/ tivo. buy him a 6 pack and get the season.

Josh Pigford

Until iTunes video downloads are at an industry standard size, I don’t think they will. Of course, the only reason anything inside the iTMS exists is to push the sale of iPods. So I honestly don’t see them moving to a larger format anytime soon.


I found the DVD vs. iTunes math relevant. I haven’t watched any episodes of Lost yet. I was considering buying the first season on iTunes; however, I purchased the first season on used DVDs from Amazon for significantly less than the cost on iTunes.

I used Handbrake to convert each episode to a video format compatible with iTunes, Quicktime and my video iPod. And, I obviously still have the DVDs, so I can watch them on a TV as well.

The point is that iTunes video format has significantly less utility than video on a DVD, assuming one can convert that video to other formats. Therefore, Apple (and the entertainment companies) should charge less for iTunes video downloads.

The same is true for iTunes music downloads, assuming one has a very good sound system. It’s often cheaper to buy a used CD on amazon than to download the equivalent of that CD from Apple. Then, after converting the CD to MP3 format, one still has the CD to play on a better sound system, where the difference between any MP3 (or ACC) compression and AIFF can be heard.


iTunes might be a little more expensive than cable, but when you factor in the other advantages of downloading episodes a la carte I find the iTunes music store preferable. Everyone consumes media a little differently, and buying only the episodes I want and being able to watch them commercial free whenever and wherever I please is perfect. I hate it that it takes me an hour to watch 40 minutes of content on cable because of commercials, and I hate it that when I sit down to watch a thirty minute television show I usually end up spending at least an hour watching a bunch of other crap because I have no self control. Buying only the shows I want from iTunes has ended up saving me quite a bit of time and helping me curb some unhealthy TV watching habits.

Bob Jones

They need to launch something in the UK, Warner Bros. for example could put Friends online – while I understand the reasoning behind not putting new shows, like Scrubs – Season 5 yet to full air here, its perfectly easy for WB to put old Friends episodes up.


There were many predictions that cable would kill movie theaters or that VCRs would kill cable and neither of these things happened.

I’m in Canada, and still waiting for iTunes to start offering TV shows here.


If iTunes could kill Cable television, it’ll take a long time.
Looking internally at Apple:
Apple can’t even offer more than 1GB to its .Mac users for some reason unbeknownst to me,
Video files are optimized for playback on Video iPod screens which do not necessarily look great on screen,

Looking externally at this situation:
High-speed internet in the USA is years behind other countries, not well-implemented enough; bandwidth and the fees for it already make having high-speed internet a bit on the pricey side for those who do not have the financial ability of choice or the ability to select their provider.

The price of cable television has skyrocketed in the past few years (without quality and choice necessarily getting better) and yet people still buy it because it’s the easiest option to which they’re accustomed. With TV programs over the internet for purchase, not only do you have to purchase the TV program, you need to purchase a high-speed internet carrier that allows you to get these programs with minimal wait-time. It’s just not easy, unfortunately.


I certainly think the possibility is there. With the increasing number of video podcasts and the addition of the Democracy Player the computer could very easily replace cable.

From expirience people seem to be paying their $40 a month for over a hundred channels, but most people only have 3-4 channels they watch regularly. If Apple can bring down its pricing scheme a little then theoption is certainly there.

On the other hand there have always been rumors of cable companies offering a la carte channel programing for cable. Perhaps with a thread from online players such as this that might finally come to frutition to offer people an all around better alternative.


I would love that. But the fact remains that the iTunes videostore still is a US-only affair. I live in the EU, and over here, we can’t enjoy no Apple-videofun at all.

I’d like Apple to expand their videoservice on a global scale, before trying to compete with cable. That way, everybody can enjoy VOD through iTunes, which naturally also benefits Apple.


Assuming the rumors are true, maybe Apple will reorganize their pricing scheme when they put full-length movies on the iTunes Music (Media?) Store.
I would also love to do away with most TV watching (live sports being the major exception) and have the flexibility to get it from iTunes whenever I want it, but I can’t get past the price.
I’ve downloaded a few episodes here and there, but as you said, getting a whole season adds up to a lot.
My wish list:
Even better discounts for getting the “Season Pass” or buying a whole season at once.
Simple price tiers based on the length of the episode (maybe $1.29 for a 20 min. and $1.99 for a 40 min.)
Choice to pay less in exchange for watching some ads.
And when full-length movies come, please figure out how to make them higher quality and let us burn them to dvds (and don’t charge any more than $9.99).

My fingers are crossed!


Great post! I too think (as do many) that Apple needs to work out the kinks in it’s pricing overall, for both music and tv. There have been rumors that they are trying to do this on the music side, a new release costing more than a 15 year old record. You know one thing is that the companies that provide the music/programming haven’t been exactly on board for apple’s online store – that (I’m sure) has been one problem in offering “fair” pricing.

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