HBO content lands on iTunes, with variable pricing (based on unknown criteria):
“We’re thrilled to bring this incredible lineup of programming from HBO to the iTunes Store,” said Eddy Cue, Apple’s vice president of iTunes. “Sex and the City,” “The Wire” and “Flight of the Conchords” are $1.99 per episode, and “The Sopranos,” “Deadwood” and “Rome” are priced at $2.99 per episode.
$2.99/episode seems quite high… for older shows (no longer in production). The few times I’ve been motivated to purchase episodes online were series not yet available on DVD, such as Burn Notice. And even though these are purchases, as opposed to rentals, it’s not like you get a ton of replay value – DRM-ed content isn’t easily shared (like a DVD) and you’re not going to stick a 55 minute show into a playlist for repeat enjoyment like a digital song. I suppose the value of an iTunes download is being able to sync content to an iPod or iPhone without ripping, transcoding, etc. Though handheld entertainment has its place, the only folks I see paying for and watching an entire season are those regularly commuting via bus or subway.
Surprisingly, Entourage isn’t initially available for download. Is this a licensing issue and/or is it just a matter of time? (And I doubt shorter shows will be introduced at a new 99 cent tier.) Seems like Apple and HBO would want to eat into the BitTorrent-embracing demographic by getting this series onto iTunes.
Michael Gartenberg believes the introduction of variable pricing opens the door for the return of NBC material to iTunes. And while I’m not entirely opposed to tiered pricing, I expect to see newer or longer content command a premium – rather than HBO’s apparent randomness.
As an aside, I dropped HBO when they couldn’t get Deadwood renewed. Showtime currently provides the best original, commercial-free programming on television now. Incidentally, Showtime also embraced digital downloads early and via multiple destinations/services… which is how I ended up a subscriber.