NBC Universal decides not to renew TV show deal with Apple’s iTunes Store

Apple iTunes“NBC Universal, unable to come to an agreement with Apple on pricing, has decided not to renew its contract to sell digital downloads of television shows on iTunes,” Brooks Barnes reports for The New York Times.

“The media conglomerate — which is the No. 1 supplier of digital video to Apple’s online store, accounting for about 40 percent of downloads — notified Apple of its decision late yesterday, according to a person familiar with the matter who asked for anonymity because negotiations between the companies are confidential,” Barnes reports.

“A spokesman for NBC Universal, part of General Electric, confirmed the decision, but otherwise declined to comment. A spokesmen for Apple declined to comment. The decision by NBC Universal highlights the escalating tension between Apple and media companies, which are unhappy that Apple will not give them more control over the pricing of songs and videos that are sold on iTunes,” Barnes reports.

“NBC Universal is also seeking better piracy controls and wants Apple to allow it to bundle videos to increase revenue, the person familiar with the matter said,” Barnes reports.

MacDailyNews Note: Please see related article: NBC: Apple’s iTunes, iPod powering broadcast ratings for ‘The Office’ – January 17, 2006

“In July, the Universal Music Group of Vivendi, the world’s biggest music corporation, said it would not renew its long-term contract with iTunes. Instead, Universal Music said it would market music to Apple at will, which would allow it to remove its songs from iTunes on short notice,” Barnes reports.

“The action by Jeff Zucker, NBC Universal’s chief executive, will not have an immediate impact on iTunes. The current two-year deal extends through December, so a vast video catalog — some 1,500 hours of NBC Universal’s news, sports and entertainment programming — will remain available on iTunes at least until then,” Barnes reports.

“The two companies could still reach an agreement on a new contract before their current deal expires. While each side has so far refused to budge, the talks will continue and have been free of acrimony, the person familiar with the matter said,” Barnes reports.

Full article here.

Welcome to big league hardball!

Please note that the shows are all still available on the iTunes Store. The threat of their removal and the leak to the press is simply a negotiating tactic initiated by one side or the other.

We doubt the shows will ever be removed. [UPDATE: 12:08pm EDT: Apple has pulled all NBC content from iTunes Store as of September 1st. The battle is on!]

We would not bet against Steve Jobs to come out on top in tough business negotiations.


  1. Man I hope NBC doesn’t pull their content. Besides Netflix, iTunes is the only form of TV I am willing to pay for these days – I hate all the crap that gets packaged with cable, and I hate being overcharged for it by cable companies. Because I really only care to stay current with about 6 shows (most of these being from NBC), this fall I was going to get subscriptions to these shows from iTunes; essentially I was going to pay NBC directly (through Apple) for ALL the TV I watch that isn’t on DVDs. If they pull out of iTunes, I’m just going to illegally download the episodes (which is a pain-in-the-ass) and still never watch an ounce of the advertising they want me to watch. At least in my case, I don’t see this move will do anything but annoy me and make them loose out on what I was willing to pay them to watch their content.

  2. Come on over to Zune Marketplace, NBC Universal. We have loads of very satisfied users and we welcome you with open arms. You want it, you got it. You want $50 for each Zune sold? No problem. Microsoft is really good at partnerships. It’s gonna be great.

  3. Like most of Universal’s output, this is getting painful to watch. Don’t you just love the way this corporation obviously views the public? As something just to be fleeced? Wouldn’t you rather buy from a company that respects you as a customer?

    And no, I’m not talking about Apple there.

  4. I don’t have time to invest in multiple new shows only to be disappointed when it’s cancelled due to low ratings..

    I usually use iTunes to download the first 4-6 episode of a new show that has traction.

    catch up and then set the EyeTV or PVR to record the rest of the season

  5. Every other site I’ve read have mentioned this as a “done deal”. This is the first site that puts it in context from an “anonymous source”.

    “The two companies could still reach an agreement on a new contract before their current deal expires.”
    Change “could” to “will”. Regardless of what Hulu is or will become, they’d still have to drive traffic to the site and that’d be leaving a LOT of money on the table in the interim… and if the content couldn’t be played on Apple TV or iPod, there’s a large swath of customers that wouldn’t follow them anyway.

  6. TV Shows and films are cheaper on DVD and if you wait until after their initial release DVD’s are dirt cheap. These companies want to charge more for lower quality and with less costs to them – how does that work?

  7. The new iPods (coming real soon now, honest) with their larger screens better suited to watching video content will convince them to come to an agreement. They are going to get money, one way or another, and iTunes Store sales are an exact count while broadcast “sales” are not.


  8. @M.X.N.T.4.1

    You are exactly right. Just last week, I wanted to buy both available seasons of The Office. The first season was $20, the second was $34. I was able to get both for $52 at BestBuy on DVD. Better quality + cheaper pricing + bonus features – no AppleTV = pretty simple choice.

  9. Universal is just all over the wrong sides of the digital media spectrum. The exclusively support the losing HD DVD format instead of Blu-ray, and now they have some sort of vendetta against Apple as well in the downloads market.

    Universal obviously loves leaving a LOT of money on the table it seems, no wonder their TV network sucks….

  10. Beleaguered Apple finally gets nailed for screwing everyone in the music and movie business. This is the beginning of the end for iTunes as everyone moves to the Microsoft store. People want choice in formats and in devices – Apple gives you neither.

    We’ll see who is laughing 6 months from now as all the music and movie companies run from Apple and there is nothing left but Macworld videos to download. Good to see bloated, overpriced Apple stock getting ready for the inevitable crash into oblivion.

    Don’t worry about operating systems after Apple dies, your overpriced mac books, imacs and mac pros will run the fast, secure and business capable Microsoft Windows.

  11. Let NBC lose more online sales to bit-torrent and other illegal downloads. They are screwing themselves and their shareholders much like their management brethren in the music industry.

    Pigs get slaughtered in the free market, and NBC Universal is acting like one.

  12. Ah, NBC. Maybe they should have some of the major music labels dust off their digitial download services from the late 1990s. You know, the ones that had draconian DRM, were overpriced, and essentially completely ignored by consumers? Yeah, those. That was in the days before the iTunes store revealed the completely unexpected: consumers will buy digital media if priced fairly and available a la carte. I know, it was totally shocking. Before that, I thought consumers preferred getting boned by the content providers. Now, along comes NBC to champion higher prices and more DRM!!

    WOO-HOO!!!!!! Go NBC!!!

    What’s that you say? They are going to offer low-res, commercial-ladden flash versions of the shows on their website?!?! That would change everything.

    If they had any shows worth watching, I would just record them to my hard drive.

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