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Apple Disputes NBC’s Variable Pricing Spin

One thing’s for sure: Each time Apple and NBC’s relationship spills out into public view, they both claim they’ve won the latest battle. Except that with two fierce negotiators like these, that’s never really the case.

In case you’re not up to speed on what’s happened so far, here’s a brief recap: Apple announced this week it would begin selling NBC shows again on iTunes, reversing the public breakup the two companies went through last year (first NBC said it wouldn’t renew, then Apple booted it off iTunes entirely). NBC TV episodes will now be sold for 99 cents, $1.99, and $2.99, depending on whether or not they are old, basic, or HD. NBC claimed this as a victory for its “variable pricing” crusade. We at NewTeeVee and many other industry watchers wondered if this was really the case, given that what NBC initially wanted to do was raise prices on certain, more popular shows (it also wanted better anti-piracy tools).

Now Apple is fighting back against that characterization, saying NBC is actually just getting the same deal as everyone else. CNET’s Greg Sandoval has gotten Eddy Cue, Apple’s vice president in charge of the iTunes store, on the record.

“We’ve never told anyone they can’t lower prices,” Cue said


“We’re glad to have NBC back and they are participating under the same terms with all of the other content providers.”

What’s clear is that working together is better for both hot-headed companies than not, especially since NBC used to make up 40 percent of iTunes downloads.

Also, on the topic of clarifying characterizations of NBC’s distribution deals, the network tells us today it did not dump Microsoft’s Silverlight for its NFL live-streaming, as had been speculated.

4 Responses to “Apple Disputes NBC’s Variable Pricing Spin”

  1. Pat Riordan

    Digital Daily nailed this one right off the bat.

    “While Apple did agree to flexible pricing for NBCU (GE) programs on iTunes, it didn’t really agree to the flexible-pricing scheme the network was seeking. NBCU wanted flexible pricing based on popularity. What it got is flexible pricing based on video definition, which Apple had already agreed to with other networks. NBCU wanted complete price variance. It didn’t get it. The company also wanted Apple to double the wholesale price it pays for each TV episode sold on iTunes. And it clearly didn’t get that either, because if it had, “The Office” would be priced at $4.99 per episode instead of its current $1.99./$2.99–according to Apple, anyway. So sure, NBCU got flexible pricing. But it got it on Apple’s terms, which presumably started looking quite a bit more attractive when the network’s other online video distribution deals didn’t prove to be as successful as it had hoped.”

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