This time, however, Apple has agreed to sell NBC programming at several different price levels. Programs in standard definition will remain available for $1.99, but programs in high definition will cost $2.99. In some cases, discount pricing is available, with full episodes of several vintage shows available on iTunes for 99 cents, including "The A-Team," "The Alfred Hitchcock Hour," "Miami Vice," "Kojak" and the original "Battlestar Galactica." iTunes customers can also purchase a "season pass," which allows viewers to buy an entire season of programming at a discounted price.
Cooperate or perish
Resolution of the dispute shows the importance TV networks are placing on alternate means of distributing their programs, and also on the challenging relationship they have with Apple, which controls the path to the iPod screen.
While iTunes viewership is not at present a factor in determining ad prices for individual shows, it is growing. And as marketers get savvier about placing ads in emerging venues, TV networks have a stake in making sure their content generates what they consider to be a proper amount of revenue.
The move ends an argument that began last year, when NBC and Apple failed to resolve a dispute over pricing and packaging. Apple has long maintained that offering different programs and different prices would complicate its iTunes store, which, like many other Apple products, relies on simplicity and an easy-to-understand interface. At the time, NBC Universal programming accounted for more than 30% of TV shows offered on iTunes. Apple at the time said NBC's demands could have pushed prices for shows up to around $5.
More shows, in more places
The two parties are mending fences just as the new fall season is starting. With TV ratings showing more signs of erosion, networks face increasing pressure to attract audiences, and having NBC programs available on iTunes offers the General Electric network another means of letting potential viewers sample its new fare, as well as old favorites. The premiere episodes of upcoming NBC shows such as "Knight Rider," "My Own Worst Enemy" and "Kath & Kim" will be available on iTunes a week before their broadcast premieres later in September and October, with subsequent episodes available the day after broadcast.
The two companies said NBC networks' top 10 series would be available immediately for purchase and download in both standard definition and high definition. iTunes customers are able to choose programming from NBC, USA Network, Sci Fi Channel, Bravo, Sleuth and NBC News, including "Heroes," "The Office," "Battlestar Galactica" and "30 Rock."