As anticipated, Apple will hold its annual music-themed event next week, with new iPods more than likely to be unveiled come 1 September. A sub plot suggests Apple may also be about to release a cheaper, leaner $99 Apple TV, complete with 99 cents TV show rentals, commercial-free, from broadcasters including Fox, ABC, NBC and CBS.  

Those deals are unlikely to make it across the pond intact, due to broadcasters such as Channel 4, five and Sky paying big bucks for hit US TV shows such as Desperate Housewives, The Mentalist and House. In time, however, Apple could forge ties with UK broadcasters, the BBC and Channel 4 particularly, to offer shows from as little as 59p, the UK equivalent of the 99 cents being touted in the US.

The question I've been mulling over in the last few days is, will people be willing to pay even 59p for something that they can get for free? The BBC, ITV, Channel 4 and five all offer free catch-up TV players online, while Sky, Virgin Media and BT Vision customers all offer similar services. Online service SeeSaw, featuring TV shows from the BBC, Channel 4 and five, along with TVCatchup, broadcasting a range of channels almost live, are also worth mentioning.

Apple iTunes Store

Currently, as a Virgin Media customer, I can not only watch the pick of the last 7 days TV, but also dig around in an archive that includes full series, including dramas and comedies from the excellent HBO. The words 'spoilt for choice' come to mind.

I've also been struggling with the concept of buying, rather renting, something you don't actually own. Setting a time limit on TV rentals from iTunes would at least make viewers prioritise sitting down and watching them, but at least with DVDs you get to keep them, watch again and pass them on. I'm also a sucker for extras, particularly audio commentaries, which many iTunes downloads don't include.

So would a new cheaper Apple TV with cheaper TV rentals persuade you to invest in Apple's "hobby" set-top box?