NBC Admits Greed And Stupidity: Issues A Non-Denial Denial.


You know the saying “Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt”? Well, NBC executives do not.

Today, NBC felt the need to counter Apple’s press release from yesterday, in which Apple claimed NBC wanted to more than double the cost of their TV shows, to $4.99. Apple’s claim was pretty strong; it would have been in NBC’s best interest to simply be “thought a fool” by most while leaving room for people to still have a doubt that Apple was coming clean. Instead, NBC decided to remove that doubt in a statement of their own.

No, their statement doesn’t come right out and say, yes, Apple was right. But in its non-denial denial language one can gather that individual TV shows would in fact have been $4.99 (or at least considerably more expensive than they are now). Further, it reveals another plan by NBC that Apple hadn’t even mentioned, but NBC was too stupid to keep their mouths shut about. Let’s take a look:

“We never asked to double the wholesale price for our TV shows. In fact, our negotiations were centered on our request for flexibility in wholesale pricing, including the ability to package shows together in ways that could make our content even more attractive for consumers.”

Whoa! That’s corporate speak for “we were going to take the shows you like and force you to buy them with the shows we happen to be pitching that day.” In other words, for every popular show you bought you’d get stuck with a clunker. This whole packaging thing rarely benefits the consumer, it’s simply a way to use popular content to shovel less popular drivel on the consumer, and make you pay for the privilege. A good musical analog would be if iTunes only let you buy albums or EPs, but not singles. This is what NBC was clearly trying to put a halt to. Why should you just buy individual episodes of The Office you like, when we can force you to swallow some other crap with it?

“It is clear that Apple’s retail pricing strategy for its iTunes service is designed to drive sales of Apple devices, at the expense of those who create the content that make these devices worth buying.”

I call bullshit on this one. What is clear, and well-known, is that Apple makes little profit from their iTunes store. Sure, it’s designed to ensure content for iPods, Apple’s never made any bones about that. But prices are partially held in check because Apple’s profits are minimized. They do not lose money on iTunes, but their profit is trivial. It’s known that in music 70% of the money goes to the studio, is video much different? Doubtful. And Apple does all the work, NBC just supplies source files and counts their money. In other words, Apple helps keep the price down by cutting into their potential profit (they benefit in other ways), the studio gets plenty.

“In addition, we asked Apple to take concrete steps to protect content from piracy, since it is estimated that the typical iPod contains a significant amount of illegally downloaded material.”

Screw you, NBC. Seriously. Screw you for calling me a thief, screw you for blaming Apple for it, and double-screw you for playing the Piracy Card. Further, screw you for taking steps even now to drive more people to consider pirating by refusing to make your product available on the #1 online media store, in a reasonable manner, and at a reasonable price. A price increase on the individual shows I want of 150% is borderline robbery. Why you think it’s reasonable that a season of Heroes should cost $110 on iTunes, with no packaging or special features, yet be available on DVD for less than half that is beyond me.

The truth is, you don’t think it’s reasonable. You went into the Apple negotiations not caring if you were turned down, but hoped Apple would be quiet about it instead of exposing you for the old-school media moguls that you are. When it didn’t work out quite like you planned, you were stupid enough to issue a release of your own that admits it in language you hoped would obscure it.

Your shows accounted for around 35% of iTunes’ video business. Over one-third! How dare you state that you were just looking to make your content “more attractive for consumers”? When a third of iTunes’ business is for your shows, I’d have to say it’s already pretty damn attractive! You wanted to pull your shows out from under the consumer in the middle of the season. This is the move of a company that doesn’t give a hoot about their consumers, not one trying to be more attractive.

“Furthermore, we want consumers to know that all our returning series, including new episodes, will be available on iTunes through the remainder of the contract, which expires in early December”

No they won’t. Apple killed your strategy of getting people “hooked” into the season and then having to run wherever you lead them to buy on new terms. By this one move, it is painfully obvious that Apple cares far more for your own consumers than you do. Apple dropped over a third of their video business to help avoid their customers from getting screwed come January when they find out you’ve moved to wherever and jacked up the price or made the show only available in a “package” that serves only your own ends.

You cannot win. If your shows appear on Hulu, Amazon, wherever, and cannot be played on an iPod, you lose. If they are not available individually and/or are packaged with drivel, you lose. If they are sold separately, but are $4.99, you lose. And if you somehow came to your senses and they are compatible with iPods, sold separately, and are $1.99, you still lose because that’s what you already had on the world’s most popular online media store!

In short, when the fecal matter hits the rotating blades it will be clear that your methods are galling, anti-consumer, last century, completely out of touch with an already successful model and the primary reason content providers are held in such contempt by most consumers today.

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