NBC Universal, ITunes Team On Downloads of TV Shows

By Yuki Noguchi
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, December 7, 2005

Hit TV shows from NBC Universal Inc. will be available for purchase and download from Apple Computer Inc.'s iTunes online media store, the companies announced yesterday as Apple continues to increase its roster of video downloads.

Already, Cupertino, Calif.-based Apple has sold 3 million videos since it launched its popular iPod video player in October with music videos and shows from ABC. The new NBC lineup will allow users to download 11 new shows such as "Law & Order," "The Office," "The Tonight Show With Jay Leno" and "Late Night with Conan O'Brien" for $1.99 a show. Shows from Sci-Fi Network and USA Network, both affiliated with NBC, also will be available.

"Apple has developed a distribution platform that is attractive to consumers while at the same time providing the safeguards against theft that are so important to us and to every content provider," NBC Universal chief executive Robert C. Wright said in a statement.

The iPod, Apple's fastest-selling product, was introduced in 2001 as a digital music player with easy-to-use controls. Its success with smaller versions and models that display photographs helped popularize digital music sales online, and the same trend is happening with video.

"Getting video from the Web to a device is not straightforward," but Apple has made that a lot easier for consumers, said Allen Weiner, an analyst with Gartner Inc. "I believe [Apple] will set the direction for video that's portable."

Apple has more than 3,000 music and other videos for sale on iTunes, including more than 300 episodes of 16 shows.

Meanwhile, cellular phone carriers are making a big push into portable video as well. Earlier this year, Verizon Wireless launched its VCast mobile video service, and Sprint Nextel Corp. has introduced its version of television over high-speed Internet as well. Yesterday, Cingular Wireless LLC announced its launch of a faster-speed product that would carry full-motion video over its network, and Sprint disclosed plans to broadcast a Bon Jovi concert to its video phone customers.

"I don't know what kind of market there is for live TV on cell phones," Weiner said. Cell phone screens are too small, and Apple has already figured out a proven business model that works, he said.

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