Among the many announcements at the Apple event earlier today, including new Nanos and headphones and colours and the Genius auto-playlist feature — all of which was obsessively live-blogged and Twittered by legions of bloggers — came the news that NBC shows had returned to the iTunes store, many of them in high-definition. It was almost a year ago now that the network pulled its content out of Apple’s grip, saying the company was too inflexible on price and other things, and started putting it up at Amazon and its own Hulu site, while Apple spread the word that NBC had wanted to boost prices.
So who gave in? From the sounds of it, both sides got their punches in: NBC gets to charge more for HD shows, but will also sell some of its older shows for less than the $1.99 price that Apple applies to virtually everything. As a piece at CNET notes, Apple also gave in to the demands of the movie networks earlier this year, and allowed them to set multiple prices for movie downloads. Will the music labels try to use these signs of weakness to get Steve to bend on album and song pricing?
John Paczkowski at All Things D believes that NBC did most of the bending, since it didn’t get what it reportedly wanted — i.e., the ability to price movies and TV shows based on popularity, as well as the ability to quadruple the price of some content. But that assumes that Apple’s version of what happened a year ago is the right one. Do we know that? Not really. Not that I’m questioning Steve Jobs, of course.
Someone who is in a position to know tells me that NBC did in fact do most of the bending, because it discovered after leaving iTunes that it wasn’t having the kind of success it wanted on its own. The announcement was spun a little, this person says, so that NBC didn’t look like it was crawling back with its tail between its legs. Which I guess raises an alternate issue — does this win make Apple’s grip on video even more unassailable? There’s more here (with Apple disputing NBC’s claim that it got the company to bend)