Apple is reportedly considering cutting the price of TV show downloads at its iTunes Store to US$0.99, according to a published report in Daily Variety. The entertainment-industry trade publication also says content makers are opposed to the idea.
With the exception of some PBS offerings, TV shows sell for $1.99 per episode at iTunes (or £1.89 from iTunes in the UK). That's been the price since Apple first added TV downloads to its online digital content store in 2005. Apple initially began with three shows ABC and two from the Disney Channel; these days, iTunes features 550 shows from 58 broadcast networks, according to figures cited by Steve Jobs at this week's Apple product unveilings.
Digital music still makes up the bulk of the business for iTunes, which ranks as the No. 3 music retailer behind only Wal-Mart and Best Buy. iTunes boasts a catalogue of some 6 million songs for sale.
However, iTunes video offerings have grabbed headlines lately, as contract talks between Apple and NBC Universal broke down recently. Apple announced last Friday that it would stop offering NBC shows – the entertainment giant says its shows will stay on iTunes through early December. Apple blamed the breakdown in negotiations on NBC's desire to increase download prices; NBC countered that it wanted to offer more flexible pricing than Apple's standard pricing. NBC Universal has begun offering its shows through Amazon's Unbox service.
The two companies have also sparred over music. This summer, Universal Music Group began a six-month test to sell music free of digital rights management copy-protection; however, it excluded the iTunes Store from its test.
The Variety report says that Apple is arguing to entertainment companies that a lower price will help drive an increase in digital downloads of their programming, but that media companies don't want to jeopardize sales of DVD box sets. The end result could be tiered-pricing for TV programming similar to what iTunes offers for movie downloads, where new releases sell for $14.99, or $5 more than older titles.
Macworld contacted an Apple representative and requested a comment on the Variety report, but at press time Apple had been unable to furnish a reply.