Apple-NBC is so high school. He loves me. He loves me not. He loves me. This time, it’s like NBC top exec Jeff Zucker is passing a note through a friend, suggesting that NBC might really like Apple again.
In the role of “friend”, the Financial Times published a story Sunday that said Zucker “eyes TV shake-up.” At the end of the report, the FT’s Joshua Chaffin includes a seemingly innocuous paragraph:
Mr. Zucker appears to have patched up relations with Apple after a pricing dispute last year led NBC to pull its shows from the iTunes digital media store. ‘We’ve said all along that we admire Apple, that we want to be in business with Apple,’ he said. ‘We’re great fans of Steve Jobs.’”
Back in October, Zucker complained that Apple “destroyed the music business” and must be stopped before it did the same to video.
But a lot has changed since then and when NBC officially pulled its content off iTunes at the end of November.
The Hollywood writer’s strike is three-months old and shaking up the industry, for better or worse. NBC’s much ballyhooed digital strategies — NBC Direct and its joint venture with Fox called Hulu — have ranged from flat-out disappointing to mildly successful.
We’ll cut NBC some lack — all of the networks really — as it’s developing and testing new digital strategies. But even with NBC Direct and Hulu, a large piece of the puzzle is missing without digital downloading to a store like iTunes (and selling NBC shows via Amazon’s Unbox just isn’t enough).
As we like to point out, the few successful prime time shows on NBC like “The Office” is due in part to early exposure on iTunes.
Zucker, in a separate story in the FT, notes that NBC’s fortunes are tied to its cable portfolio, which includes content on the Sci-Fi Channel, Bravo!, and USA Network. Some of NBC’s cable shows like “Battlestar Galactica” and “Psych” are due to iTunes exposure as well.
So all along it has made no sense for NBC to throw a hissy fit and act like a jilted lover over variable pricing vs. fixed pricing, the issue that’s at the center of the NBC-Apple spat. In fact, catalyst for change has been a number of things, including the AmazonMP3 store and the major Hollywood studios getting variable pricing for their content from Apple in the just-announced movie rentals on iTunes –including movies from Universal.
It’s time to kiss and make up and put NBC content back on iTunes.
“We want to be in business with Apple,” Zucker told the FT. “We never said that we did not want to be in business with Apple. But we want to do it on terms we are comfortable with.”