Wednesday, September 05, 2007

NBC proves themselves to be a bunch of greedy pigs

As you may be aware, NBC and Apple have recently had a falling out. NBC may be deciding to stop selling content through the iTunes Store. According to Apple, NBC was insisting on much higher prices - as much as $5 per episode for some shows, and Apple refused to budge. (Apple says that NBC has already walked away from the bargaining table, but other sources say this hasn't been finalized yet.)

For this alone, I applaud Apple. Note that NBC's request would have been more than twice the price they charge for programs on DVD - a typical TV series DVD box set costs $30-50 and contains 20-25 episodes. This equates to a per-episode price of $1.20-2.50. If they think people are going to pay more than twice the DVD price in order to get a low-resolution downloaded version with no surround sound and no bonus materials, they're insane. Apple's pricing ($2 per episode for everything) is, on the other hand, right in-line with what the public has already proven themselves willing to pay.

If that was the end of the story, however, I wouldn't have much to write about. Today, however, the story gets more interesting. NBC has decided to start selling content through Amazon's "Unbox" service. The official reason, they say is because they think Apple's DRM isn't restrictive enough.

For those unfamiliar with the DRM differences between these two systems, let me explain. Apple's "FairPlay" DRM is very simple. For videos, you may play them on any five computers, on as many Apple-TV devices as you want, and on as many iPods as you want (Apple-TVs and iPods must be loaded from an authorized computer) and that's it. Nice and simple.

In comparison, Unbox only allows you to play videos on two computers, and on two portable devices. And you can not authorize one computer to play content from two accounts - so you and your wife had better use the same account or you're going to need two computers attached to the living room TV. And Unbox uses Microsoft's proprietary "WMA" DRM scheme, so users of Apple products (Mac, Apple TV, iPod, etc.) are not welcome.

As a customer, which would you rather use? Are you going to pay 2-4 times the DVD price in order to use a system that places these kinds of restrictions on your purchases? I didn't think so. As John Gruber wrote in his Daring Fireball blog, "This just shows how moronic these NBC clowns are."

The interesting question now will be what NBC does after all their content is removed from iTunes, and appears on Amazon, and the money dries up. Will they:

  1. Come crawling back to Apple (with or without a statement why)
  2. Do nothing, and simply lose money
  3. Declare that there's no money to be made from downloads, and accuse their formerly-loyal download-audience of piracy when DVD sales don't increase.
I predict #3.

1 comment:

JamesQMurphy said...

You said it ... #3. And they'll be left in the dust. I wouldn't call it "greed", I'd call it "short-sightedness." Or old-fashioned thinking. Or just a complete misunderstanding. NBC would make a pile more money if they sold their content thru iTunes and made it simple.

Outside of The Office, and any sports that happen to be on, there isn't much that I watch on NBC anymore. Serves 'em right.