Without a doubt, the craziest story to hit the web today was the announcement of NBC pullings its TV shows from the iTunes Store.
This comes hot on the heels of NBC’s announcement that it’s starting its own on-line video offering site, finally naming it “Hulu” after months of time spent on the soon-to-be boondoggle. Many have translated “Hulu” from other languages, none of which are very flattering to NBC. (“Hair,” “butt,” “cease,” “desist”)
It almost makes sense, though, to pull out from a future competitor when you’re starting your own system.
But, Apple slapped NBC silly today and announced they were ending the relationship sooner than NBC expected and won’t be offering any new shows from NBC. They also announced, more importantly, why NBC pulled out. NBC wanted to charge you $5 for a 22 minute sit-com, or 44 minute drama. (It would be more expensive to buy a seasno’s worth of HEROES on iTunes that way, than to buy the HD-DVD boxed set of the season.) Apple laughed. NBC walked.
NBC is about to learn that what saved THE OFFICE was, in large part, its ease of access through iTunes and the relatively low price. (Oh, and that it’s a darn good show.) They’re about to learn it the hard way. And then they’ll learn it again when the creative community in Hollywood goes on strike because they’re not getting much if any of the $5 NBC isn’t getting the $2 iTunes was getting, or the nothing NBC will be charging.
NBC just guaranteed a massive increase in piracy of its TV shows on-line, and a hit to its incoming revenue. Brilliant move, Peacock.
In the long run, though, I think network-video-over-the-net is not going to truly take off until Hollywood studios and their lawyers get a handle on the copyright situation and the way they spread the money around. Until they can quell the multiple unions that want a cut of this potentially lucrative pie, they’re never going to get anywhere. And until they can wrap their head around the idea that net-based distribution is really a good idea, they’re going to keep making baby steps forward and giant leaps back.
Don’t get me wrong — I love competition. Maybe some serious iTunes competition would lead to HDTV content getting added in, for one small example. But the margins are so thin with the iTunes store, as it is, that I’m pretty grateful for what we have, though resentful that Hollywood gets so much of it. That’s not me being an Apple fanboy. That’s me being a tech geek.
But if NBC thinks they can open a new downloadable content store with $5 videos that last all of 22 minutes, then this is NO competition whatsoever to iTunes. It’s just a clueless Hollywood entity dumping gasoline on itself and lighting an entire book of matches in the name of controlling one’s own fate.
Good riddance to bad rubbish.