NBC Offers Programs A La Carte on iTunes

One-upping Disney's ABC and beating Viacom's CBS to the punch, NBC Universal on Tuesday announced a deal with Apple to distribute a wealth of new and archived shows through the iTunes music store. For $1.99 an episode, consumers can download programs from "Alfred Hitchcock Presents" and the original "Dragnet" to "Law & Order" and "Late Night with Conan O'Brien."

The deal follows Apple's mid-October release of its video iPod, which was accompanied by news that ABC would be selling premium programming--"Lost" and "Desperate Housewives," among others--on iTunes. Since then, over three million videos have been sold, according to Apple CEO Steve Jobs.

Perhaps having learned a lesson from the music industry's troubles with illegal file-sharing, Bob Wright, chairman and CEO of NBC Universal, told press Tuesday that Apple's anti-piracy assurances were crucial.

"Apple has developed a distribution platform that is attractive to consumers while at the same time providing the safeguards against theft that are so important to us and to every content provider," Wright said in a prepared statement.

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CBS is the only remaining major network without an iTunes distribution deal, but that might soon change. In early November, CBS Digital President Larry Kramer told OnlineMediaDaily that CBS had already held talks with Apple about distributing its premium shows on iTunes.

Subscription and ad-supported models, as well as selling content piecemeal via iTunes, are all options being considered by CBS Digital, said Kramer, adding that a partnership with Apple was a strong possibility as long as the "economic proposal is fair enough."

Other NBC offerings include "The Office," "Surface," "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno," "Late Night with Conan O'Brien," USA Network's Emmy-winning "Monk," and Sci-Fi Channel's "Battlestar Galactica," plus TV Land classics like "Adam-12" and "Knight Rider."

Some publishers, such as WashingtonPost.com, have begun uploading video through iTunes without an official partnership with Apple. In late October, Chet Rhodes, the Post's deputy multimedia editor, told OnlineMediaDaily that he aspires toward a free ad-supported distribution model. Rhodes estimated that video clips would have to be downloaded at least 10,000 times before the Post's advertisers would take notice.

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