Did Apple Actually Bow to NBC to Get 30 Rock Back on iTunes?

One of the smaller, but still significant announcements yesterday was that NBC was coming back to iTunes and that they'd be one of the channels offering TV shows in high-def—for US$2.99. Buried in that, even, is that they'll sell a bunch of older shows for just 99 cents an ep, and offer discounts to Season Pass buyers. Cnet says that "What this means for consumers, however, is that Apple is slowly losing control over pricing of video content at iTunes." Uh, what?

If you go back to the original divorce papers, Apple says that NBC actually wanted to double the wholesale price of TV shows, making them US$4.99. Even if you don't take Apple's word, NBC CEO Jeff Zucker said that what NBC wanted was a cut of hardware sales and to "take one show, it didn't matter which one it was, and experiment and sell it for US$2.99."

That's a lot different than the pricing structure revealed yesterday. The US$2.99 pricepoint is for high-def TV shows from every channel, not simply a popular show NBC tried to milk for more money. It's also commensurate with the elevated price for HD movie rentals or DRM-free tracks (though the DRM-free tax is bullshit). Yes, there is some flexibility in TV show pricing, but it's flexibility that benefits users—older shows are cheaper, and people get a discount for buying a Season Pass, which is pretty logical.

The price hikes that NBC asked for effectively didn't happen, and we can be damned certain they're not getting a cut of the hardware. They even come out and say that they didn't get all the pricing options they wanted. So, even if you consider selling older shows for 99 cents to be a concession on Apple's part, I fail to see how that's Apple bending to NBC's iron will: The pricing structure is not arbitrary (a show doesn't cost more just 'cause it's popular); we're not being asked to pay more than we used to pay for the same stuff; and the higher US$2.99 price for HD or looong TV shows falls in line with how Apple has been treating HD video. See also: [Bits]