Things started out innocently enough. Positioning for greater pricing flexibility and other concessions, NBC notified Apple that they wouldn’t renew their long term contract when it expired in December. Somehow that contractually required notice became public. Labels were applied in the media – good guys / bad guys. Sides were taken. Details slipped out that NBC was positioning for more pricing flexibility and the option of bundling products. Sources said Apple wouldn’t budge. Things escalated. Apple snapped back and said they wouldn’t make NBC’s upcoming fall line up available. Things simmered. Tempers boiled.
Yesterday, NBC fired back. In a surprise announcement, they said they had struck a partnership deal with Amazon. NBC Universal programming will now be available on Amazon’s Unbox video service. Starting Monday, they said, new shows will be available from Amazon. And per NBC’s wish, they’ll be available with a range of pricing options, and the option for some programs to be sold as bundled products.
To put an exclamation on the point, and to shout out that dynamic pricing can be good for end-users and not just profits, some of the pilots for new series will even be available for free. They’ll also air online ahead of their television premiers. Other programs will be offered in a number of packages including a season pass that is priced at a thirty percent discount for prepayment.
The programs will be available for viewing on computers, or on TV’s via Amazon’s Buy on TV partnership with TiVo. Whether the deal will include a rental option, as Unbox does for some videos is unclear (though presumed unlikely).
This is not NBC Universal’s first relationship with Amazon’s Unbox. (They’ve been offering some feature films since September 2006). The deal also doesn’t assure a complete iTunes split in December. What this new deal does is reinforce NBCU’s bargaining position; notably, their desire to price and package their content in multiple ways.
In no uncertain terms NBC just said to Apple “this is what we want and this is what we’ll get. Take it or leave it.” With Amazon, Hulu coming online soon, and nbc.com showing ad supported versions of shows, NBC is saying they can live without Apple. Now Apple will decide: do they want to live without NBC?
[The official NBC Universal press release can be found here]