Networks wary of Apple’s push to lower TV show prices, but willing to ‘try anything’

Apple Online Store“If Apple cut the price of each TV episode in half — to 99 cents, from $1.99 — would sales on iTunes increase enough to offset the price drop? Experiments are under way to find out, and the head of the nation’s No. 1 television network, CBS, indicated last week that some shows, at least, would be priced under a dollar in the future,” Brian Stelter reports for The New York Times.

“Apple wants to ignite TV show sales, especially as it prepares to introduce the iPad tablet computer next month,” Stelter reports. “But its proposals to lower prices across the board are being met by skepticism from the major networks.”

“Television production is expensive, and the networks are wary of selling shows for less,” Stelter reports. “They are equally wary of harming their far more lucrative deals with affiliates and cable distributors, who may feel threatened by online storefronts like Apple’s and those operated by Amazon, Microsoft and Sony.”

Stelter reports, “But the networks do not want to ignore the 125 million customers with credit cards who have iTunes accounts, either. ‘We’re willing to try anything, but the key word is ‘try,” said a TV network executive who requested anonymity because his company had declined to comment publicly on talks with Apple.”

“Separately, Apple has proposed to some networks that the store sell a subscription package of popular TV shows. At a price some reports have set at $30 a month, the subscription service would be a direct threat to entrenched cable and satellite providers,” Stelter reports. “Apple has encountered trepidation from some networks, but the proposal is not off the table, according to executives at two of the networks.”

Read more in the full article here.

[Thanks to MacDailyNews Reader “Fred Mertz” for the heads up.]


  1. On anything older than a year it must do, specially in SD I don’t see why anyone would download a tv show from iTunes when you can typically get the dvd box set for next to nothing.

    At the moment prices are such that you have to spend a lot of money to get very little, and as such I don’t spend anything.

  2. $1.99 for a show you might fall asleep watching once? Why even 99 cents for a show like “This Old House” or the myriad of infomercial like home improvement shows?

    25c and I might waste some time watch that episode, or I might just roll over and go to sleep—either way I learn just about as much.

  3. “At the moment prices are such that you have to spend a lot of money to get very little…”


    “$1.99 for a show you might fall asleep watching once? “

    You’re right, Bill. Most people will be buying shows they don’t like. Well thought out comment.

  4. 99 cents to buy would work for me. That would make a season ~$25.

    I just looked and Chuck Season 3 was $20 for 7 episodes. $2.99 an episode is a lot of dough. Not really worth it IMAO.

  5. Are they $tupids or what?
    They can give away the episodes for FREEE!!!!! the TV shows are paid by the ad they air in their networks during their shows. Selling it on iTunes is an additional revenue for them and it could be the main one if they weren’t so greeeeeeeddddddy!

  6. As has been stated before, the cost of professional television production is very expensive. Traditionally, commercial advertising has underwritten this expense. Recently, a pay-per-view and/or subscription model has emerged to help defray production costs.

    Moving into a future where more video content can be consumed on a variety of screens and devices, from large screen to pocket screen, there is more potential opportunity for video distribution channels than ever before.

    This bodes well for both producers and consumers of video. The demographics of how video is distributed and consumed is still evolving, and most folks seem to be waiting for things to shake out and settle.

    In the mean time, I believe that Apple is creating the possibility of new virtual TV channels in the form of iPhone/iPad Apps. Think of and scale accordingly. Just think, with enough content, you could become your own television distribution network! This is unprecedented in the history of television.

    Premium content on premium device equals premium business.

    Enter the Apple iPad, the new personal sized TV.


  7. Have the TV guys learned nothing from raising song prices from $.99 to $1.29? Does anybody there see the trend? I know for a fact I won’t touch a TV show for more than $1. Hell, there ain’t that many worth watching for nothing right now. Give me Lost and live sports for $2 a pop and I’m there, though (and goodbye cable/satellite!). The rest of my iTunes $$$ will go to the iBookstore.

  8. Downloads have to be cheaper. Right now the major supermarkets are selling DVD movies 3 for £10. On an upscaling DVD player they look just fine on a 32 inch flatscreen.

    Master & Commander, The Perfect Storm and Gran Torino, just three such titles. iTunes wants to sell me Gran Torino for £6.99. Ha hah!

  9. 99 cents is much better, but still short of many sale prices for the DVD sets in stores. Last week, Season 5 of The Office was on sale at Target for $16.50, currently it’s $39.99 on iTunes. Even at half price, it’s still more cheaper to buy in store, plus I have the physical discs, which for me is a good thing. I’m not opposed to buying downloads from iTunes or Amazon or somewhere else, but the prices have to drop before I’ll even consider it. The sooner the networks accept how crucial pricing is, the better for all of us.

  10. My yearly cable bill with Rogers in Canada is nearly $2000. Part of that expense is the rental of a digital HD PVR. I plan to discontinue cable this spring and buy TV. The cost to watch the programmes I like with iTunes is currently about $800 a year. That extra $1200 is better in my pocket! Die cable companies, die!

    If the prices on the iTunes store drop, I’ll save even more!

  11. i wouldnt think that 99cent shows on itunes would effect the lucrative deals with affiliates. its cool to be able to watch shows on the comp when missed on regular tv, but when bored, one will always watch ncis on cable

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