NBCU-iTunes: Interview: JB Perrette, President, NBCU Digital Distribution: ‘A Lot Of Upside’


imageHad a chance to talk with JB Perrette by phone as he left San Francisco for NBCU’s leadership meetings in LA. Perrette, president of digital distribution, said the deal that put NBC Universal (NYSE: GE) programming back on iTunes is multi-year: “We’re now fully back in business.” As for the lost revenue — NBCU CEO Jeff Zucker had said the company made $15 million from iTunes: “I think in very short order we’ll be back to where we were before we pulled it off. We were number one on the service, and … with the benefit of this flexible pricing, both on the low line where we think there’ll be high volume, and in HD, there’ll be a significant growth in that number. What exactly it is, time will tell but we think there’s a lot of upside to that number.”

Timing: NBCU wanted to be back in time for fall but Perrette said there was no “linchpin” moment when Apple (NSDQ: AAPL) and NBCU agreed on a solution. “It was a gradual process, which I think had a couple of seminal moments over the last 12 months. It obviously started with the falling out we had last fall but I think over the last couple of months Apple realized having the breadth of content and the best quality content is more important than being overly rigid about the one pricing fits all.”

More after the jump

Three installments: Perrette sees today’s announcement as the third installment in changes that have happened since “we pulled our content off a year ago.” The first was Apple’s agreement with studios.”They had never really gotten any traction because they were asking studios to accept pricing that was below DVD pricing. … They agreed to pricing at least in parity with DVD, if not higher, and launched a film business, which Universal was part of last winter.” The second was premium pricing for HBO. “They finally came to an agreement there, giving them some flexibility with $2.99 pricing.” As for this installment, “we at minimum have three tiers of pricing.” In addition, NBCU can offer double-digit discounts on season passes and create and variably price compilations.

HD sales: “On every platform where we’ve offered HD, we’ve seen significant — the majority, by far — of people opting for HD.” HD episodes will sell for $2.99; NBCU is including the HD option in its two-week free download promo.

Extras for sale: “They’ll primarily be three different things: a series of episodes, it could be a series of clips like with SNL we could offer the 20 best or, in time — this can’t be done today — let consumers choose their own; season passes .. and then the third thing we’re looking at launching shortly, we now have the ability to offer other extras as part of a season pass or bundle sale. Those extras could be additional video, PDF content, graphics, pictures, bios, could be wallpaper for a phone, potentially games, that could all be bundled into a compelling offering around a show.” He wouldn’t go into specifics but said they are looking at games that would work on iPhones, iPods, etc. “There’s nothing we can tell you about today but certainly it’s something we’re looking at.”

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