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HBO’s Cheaper Shows Are Hits on iTunes

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Looks like iTunes users have a hankering for HBO shows…as long as they’re under $2 a pop, that is.

After debuting last week, HBO programs fill eight of the top 15 slots on iTunes’ Top TV Seasons sales chart. While The Wire‘s season one is the highest-ranking show at No. 2, Sex and the City is represented five times. Sex and the City, The Wire and Flight of the Conchords (which also made the top 10) are all for sale at the standard iTunes price of $1.99. ($22-$25 for the whole season).

Much was made about HBO’s ability to wrangle a $2.99 price point for its content out of Apple. Whole seasons of Rome, The Sopranos and Deadwood go for roughly $35, and of those higher-priced shows, only Rome cracked the Top Seasons list. Other $2.99 programs include The Sopranos season six, part 2, which comes in at No. 17; Deadwood season one at No. 22; The Sopranos season one at No. 27; and The Sopranos season six, part 1, at No. 63.

Pay TV network content from HBO and its rival Showtime appear to be something people prefer to buy in bulk, not single episodes. The Top Episodes sales chart is packed with recent network shows and no content from HBO or Showtime appears until The Wire‘s first episode at No. 27.

It’s difficult to take away anything truly concrete from this data as Apple doesn’t release actual sales figures, but perhaps Apple was right about charging a flat $1.99 for TV shows. While most of the reviews on iTunes have been positive, there are grumblings about paying an extra dollar for just data (no packaging) that’s DRM’d and not even in HD.

How far can HBO take the higher pricing structure? We’ll be watching to see what happens as the network adds more shows. Will iTunes charge $2.99 for an episode of Om Malik-fave Entourage, even though the show is only half an hour long? More importantly, will people buy it at that price? When will it make HD versions available, and how much will those cost? And will anyone pay anything for John From Cincinnati?

Perhaps Mr. Jobs will have answers for us at the upcoming Apple Worldwide Developers Conference on June 9th.

9 Responses to “HBO’s Cheaper Shows Are Hits on iTunes”

  1. The Wire is Amazing. As a Sydney sider, I heard not heard about it before I caught it by chance disgracefully a few weeks back marooned on late night television. I come

  2. @Chris, yeah I figured that too…but if you are BUYING them during the season, it’s either because 1) you don’t have the channel (or any cable) or 2) because you want to own them and don’t have any current setup to record them off air.

    I DVR everything, and still dump the few “keepers” to DVDs…but if I didn’t have any of that I might buy a few things, even at $2.99 a pop.

  3. I refuse to purchase the HBO content because it is too expensive. I know that $2.99 is only a dollar more than the other shows but I just don’t see the value in it since I’m only going to watch the episode once and instead I could rent a 2 hour movie for the exact same price.

  4. Chris Albrecht


    Maybe, but HBO has a pretty heavy repeat schedule with multiple airings throughout the week and VOD. If you miss an ep, it’s super easy to catch it again through your regular oleteevee set.

  5. I’m completely engrossed by The Wire since HBO came to iTunes. I bought the first season for $25 on iTunes, and then was pretty shocked to find out that the second season on DVD is $59.99 (I still bought it though!).

    I’m anxiously awaiting 3-5 to come out on iTunes. Also, where the hell is Entourage? If they sell Entourage for $1.99/show, I might buy every season!