NBC a Holdout for 99-Cent iTunes Rentals


So far, only ABC (s dis) and Fox (s nwsa) have signed on with Apple’s (s aapl) plan to rent individual TV show for 99 cents apiece. Other networks have yet to join in, and yesterday, NBC Universal (s ge) Chief Executive Jeff Zucker made clear that his company probably won’t be anytime soon.

According to Zucker, speaking at a Goldman Sachs Investor conference (via AppleInsider), giving in to Apple’s request would be bad for NBC’s brand. “We do not think 99 cents is the right price point for our content,” he said. “We thought it would devalue our content.” More than giving it away for free while shilling for Bud Light (s bud) and Pepsi (s pep)? Really?

Still, it’s hard to fault NBC for playing coy initially. Though ABC and Fox have signed on with Apple’s plan, as mentioned, Fox has done so only temporarily. It told investors at the conference on Wednesday that the 99-cent price point was only a “short-term test” designed to gauge feasibility in the longer term.

This isn’t Apple’s first rodeo, though. NBC has played a similar tune in the past, when it pulled all of its content from the iTunes store in 2007 with little warning. It was attempting to use its position as a top mover of content in the iTunes marketplace to bully Apple into doubling the price of its individual episodes.

NBC eventually caved, signing back on to sell episodes at the regular price of $1.99 for SD and $2.99 for HD. Apple TV’s sales success will have a major impact in determining whether history repeats itself or not in this case. I’m betting it will.

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Jeff Drake

“We do not think 99 cents is the right price point for our content.”

I agree. I haven’t watched anything on NBC in at least five years, probably six. IMHO, 99¢ is about $10 too much for most of the trash they show.

Ben Ackles

99 cents is clearly a test market price-point. My guess is very few people will pay for individual episodes on a regular basis. It’s not even the total cost of purchasing episodes it’s the idea that consumers will realize they pay each time they watch something. Rather a more suitable model would be to pay a monthly subscription on a per network basis. I might be willing to pay say $5-10 per month for each network. NBC/ABC/FOX/Comedy Central, etc… would be at the lower end and HBO/Showtime would be at the higher rate. I only really care to watch two networks anyhow; NBC & Comedy Central. Paying a monthly subscription wouldn’t be out of the ordinary and I would still get the benefit of viewing what I want, when I want.

I can’t help but think this model has been tried before. Does anyone remember “Want TV”? Maybe the market just wasn’t ready for it.

Scott Jensen

“More than giving it away for free while shilling for Bud Light and Pepsi? Really?”

That’s exactly what I was thinking up to that point. I literally laughed out loud when I read your sentences above.

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