It was a trickle at first, those videos from Disney and ABC that hit the iTunes Music Store video section when the new iPod with video launched.
What was merely a few TV shows and music videos just weeks ago is now a steady stream with NBC’s latest video offerings. January will open the flood gates to the video hub.
I’ll admit that I was disappointed in the first video listings on the iTunes Music Store. After all, it was pretty much just Disney and ABC and a small listing of music videos (very small).
Since then, things have changed. While NBC and CBS announced different video offerings on other venues, NBC cut a big deal with Apple.
While Apple was selling iPods by the truckload, they also announced that customers pulled down over 3-million videos from iTMS. Then, Apple topped that by announcing a huge deal last week with NBC.
NBC Universal offered up hit shows like ‘Law & Order’, ‘Monk’, and ‘Battlestar Galactica’. Also available were some TV classics like ‘Alfred Hitchcock Presents’, ‘Dragnet’, and ‘Knight Rider.’ NBC promised more.
In an interview in Broadcasting and Cable, NBC’s TV Group President, Jeff Zucker, said more videos were on the way. Many more.
While Zucker says the next few weeks and months will see more announcements, the floodgates to video content, and media management will be opened by Apple at Macworld San Francisco early in January 2006.
Why? How? Record companies have a herd mentality, and so do executives from the television and movie industries.
The record company executives ceded control of music to Apple and the iTunes Music Store, not fully recognizing how quickly Apple could and would move to make both the iPod and iTMS dominant.
Apple won’t be so lucky, fortunate, successful with video, but they’re off to a great start, as the name brand recognition, iPods, and iTMS infrastructure are all in place.
TV and movie executives will do as the record company executives did. They’ll spread their videos, TV shows and movies, to as many different distribution points as they can. Apple’s iTunes and iPod combo is merely one of many.
Apple got the video component started with Disney and ABC. How? Disney wants more deals with Pixar, so Pixar became the carrot that led Disney back to Apple with video content.
On the side, NBC picked up the pace with an initial video deal and a promise of much more to come.
Said Jeff Zucker, “It is part of our overall digital strategy, something Bob Wright had laid out for us for more than a year now, which is to make our content as ubiquitous as possible, to have it be available on as many screens as possible. We want it to be on all the platforms.”
That’s the big news. NBC Universal, one of many content providers, but a big one, recognizes the need to shove content through as many doors as possible. Apple just happens to have a big door.
The trickle of video content has become a stream with this Zucker comment: “Over the next couple of weeks, in fact, we will have many more announcements about many more shows there. We see it as a brand-new business, and it will be run like any television network, with new material refreshed and replenished all the time. I don’t think there’s a limit as to how many shows we can have available.”
See how that works? What’s happening in the next couple of weeks? Macworld San Francisco. The number of new products and announcements that Apple could make in early January is already stacked greater than Pam Anderson; vertical or horizontal.
The content producers recognize the same thing as the record company executives; they know their content is downloaded illegally, so, slow down the thievery and add revenue to an already legitimzed process, ala the iTunes business model.
It’s a business model? You betcha. It’s a legitimate model, so says NBC’s Zucker: “Every week there are 436,000 illegal downloads of Battlestar Galactica. Clearly, someone is downloading it and watching it on a smaller screen. Ever since iTunes went online with video, there have been 500,000 downloads per week. It’s pretty clear people want to watch this stuff. Now, given that we are selling Battlestar Galactica for $1.99, there is finally a legitimate model in place.”
I have not doubts that pragmatic business men and women within the content (music and video) industry were prefer not to have Apple own 80-percent of the legal download market share.
But I said they’re pragmatic. They’ll take what they can get and Apple delivers plenty. Apple is also positioned to deliver quickly, and shorten the time it took for online music sales from iTMS to become dominant.
Make no mistake about what’s happening. Apple and iTunes Music Store and the iPod will be only one avenue to obtain video content, whether it’s TV shows or movies, classics or latest releases.
Video content, in all its forms and formats, will, within a year or two, become available everywhere online, and probably more so than music.
Cell phones can already do streaming video. Though I don’t expect to watch Battlestar Galactica on my cell phone, NBCs ‘live’ news shows will be a natural fit.
Apple will have competition from all sides but is positioned well, not only to defend its music turf on iTMS and iPod, but to expand a measure of control to the home media center.
Unlike Sony and Nintendo and Microsoft’s Xbox, Apple won’t gain entry to the living room through games or game console. Expansion will come via the iPod as it morphs into the remote player.
January’s Macworld may well see the Mac mini become Apple’s entry to the media center, but firmly connected to the iPod, iTunes, iMovie, iDVD, DVD Player, and iTunes Music Store.
A few questions remain. Will Apple allow burning of video content via Mac OS X, as can be done with music and iTunes? Will Apple add a digital video recorder to the mix, allowing for free video content, or stick with the business model of downloads that cost money?
Regardless, the stream is swelling and getting deeper.
I think Apple will prefer to avoid the digital video recorder and let others ‘connect’ their devices to a Mac mini, ala Elgato’s EyeTV. They want us to pay for video content.
Jack D. Miller
It’s becoming increasingly clear that ‘pay for’ is the name of the game. Still, I’d like iTunes or some kind of Apple software, to function like TiVo and record video and get it to my Mac and to my iPod.