Apple is recruiting TV networks to go in on an iTunes TV subscription offering, according to Peter Kafka at MediaMemo. For $30 per month starting “early next year,” users would be able to watch episodes via iTunes. This is actually something that had been suggested to the company by prolific Apple prognosticator Gene Munster, who recommended in August that Apple charge $30 to $40 for a sub-library of its TV shows in order to recruit customers away from their $85-plus per month cable bills.
Could Steve Jobs actually be implementing advice from the hoi polloi? Maybe. A TV subscription product actually sounds promising given that iTunes already has an established business of selling digital content delivered over the Internet — TV episodes, even! — so it’s out in front of “TV Everywhere” Hulu-like sites for paying subscribers of cable companies and other TV operators, as well as Hulu itself.
But on the other hand, iTunes today sells downloads, and only downloads. Few people seem to care about owning TV episodes, unless you’re talking multi-season boxed and special-featured DVD sets. Meanwhile, on-demand streaming is by far the dominant method of consuming TV, especially as distributors delve into HD and adaptive bitrate streaming. And iTunes’ sales numbers are actually not that big, with some public stats only showing tens of thousands of downloads per TV episode.
Further, there’s no word on when episodes would be available and for what windows — but then no networks have actually signed on yet. Kafka suggests Disney, due to its close relationship with Apple via Jobs, could be the first to join. But if iTunes wants to go from a la carte to subscription, it really need to have an excellent stock of current content from everyone in the business.