No More BSG On iTunes?

According to a New York Times article today, NBC Universal will not renew its iTunes contract with Apple, meaning that unless things change between now and then, Battlestar Galactica will disappear from iTunes as of January 1, 2008.

As the ‘Times says, “The decision by NBC Universal highlights the escalating tension between Apple and media companies, which are unhappy that Apple will not give them more control over the pricing of songs and videos that are sold on iTunes.”

Of course, there’s a reason Apple isn’t offering those pricing options: consumers aren’t interested in them! If Apple allowed NBC/Vivendi/etc. to “bundle” songs and videos, adjust the prices minute-by-minute to frack wtih demand — and ultimately pull them on a moment’s notice — iTunes would be as dead as these media companies’ own direct-sale initiatives.

The ‘Times article indicates that NBC is concerned about piracy issues. Well, here’s a piracy issue they can really be concerned about: BSG season four is going to be a huge, huge seller. And if viewers without cable can buy it off iTunes for a reasonable price — without bundling, variable pricing, or other such BS — they will. But if NBC continues down this foolhardy path and yanks it, cableless fans will get it somehow.

Guess where?

(Thanks, Matt, for the great tip.)

NBC Will Not Renew iTunes Contract [NY Times]

40 Responses to "No More BSG On iTunes?"
  1. Pike says:

    I don’t know what NBC said to Apple, but they didn’t like it.

    Universal refused to renew their yearlong contract, but they’re continuing on a month-to-month basis. I figured the NBC breakdown would opperate similarly. But no, Apple is kicking NBC the hell off iTunes. (!!!)

    NBC is insane. The video on iTunes is DRMed much worse than the music (where you have a simple burn-rerip workaround) but it was priced low enough that it still made sense for me to buy it on iTunes, knowing full well that I would buy it again on DVD later. NBC wanted to DOUBLE the price of each episode (c. $5.00 a pop!) I would not have bought it at that price. Now, thanks to NBC’s insanity: Bittorrent, here I come.

    (Recommended client, Azureus. Recommended tracker, Pirate Bay.)

  2. Gryper says:

    I downloaded Season 3 due to the date/time change to Sunday at 9:00 p.m. And I’ll buy them again when the DVDs are released. Guess I’ll just have to record to DVD instead if the time slot for the show stays the same as last season. NBC won’t get a “double-dip” from me.

    Pike: is the quality good on Bittorrent? I checked it out a long time ago and didn’t think the quality was very good in my opinion.

  3. Pike says:

    Gryper, it depends. Generally, the bigger the file the better the quality. I’ll actually look for the smaller files (iPod size (or 1/4 VGA) is a good tradeoff for me.)

    Background: I was happy to D/L from iTunes but on two occasions I resorted to the torrents. The first was when I did a parody of the opening and needed a scene from Season Three (not yet out on disc.) Since you can’t make any use of the video (w/o add-on software) I just grabbed a torrent of a show I had already paid for.

    The second time was for the episode tha shall not be named. They were late putting it up on iTunes (late Monday, IIRC) and I wasn’t going to wait that long.

  4. Jim says:

    I think this is more complicated than it seems.

    I own both Blu-Ray DVD and HD-DVD players. I have been following the High-Def format war. It seems that NBC Universal, Paramount/ Dream works is getting money from Microsoft for supporting HD-DVD exclusively. They also get free or reduced costs for encoding their HD content with Microsoft’s VC-1 codex (which is a good codex by the way). Microsoft does not really care who wins the format war , in fact they want both formats to fail, because they believe online downloading will be the way to go with High-DEF video, screw the physical discs. Guess what , after the dust clears they will have access to VC-1 encoded BSG, Heroes, …etc for their own down load service. The real foe for them is Apple i-TV!!


  5. Battlestar Gigzlactica says:

    Man!! This frakking sucks!!!1 I was counting on the iTunes downloads because I don’t have SciFi channel….I hope NBC realizes the error of their ways soon… I NEED MY BSG!!!!

  6. Dainin says:

    As I read the info, NBC’s contract with Apple runs 2 more years. So BSG will still be available. I guess it’s the ONLY good thing about BSG coming to an end.

  7. The Alpaca Herder says:

    Dainin: Nope, this is a breach of contract scenario to an extent. See: . The final season is not going to be available unless the schedule gets bumped up to before January 1st.

    This is part of the problem to the whole platform. Something like this requires stability to continue. With the HD-DVD/Blu-Ray war brewing few want to have divided attention with materials being available via download as well as by way of disc. Since Jim mentions an exclusivity deal for encoding that Microsoft has we must not forget that Microsoft has its own competitor to the iPod known as the Zune. This is a possible way to start pushing people toward Microsoft’s preferred platform rather than letting dollars slip away to Apple.

    Unfortunately the Zune is not compatible with much of anything other than XP or Vista, it seems…

  8. Number 13 says:

    We’re living in an amazing time where TV/advertiser paid programing and internet/on demand programing are about to clash. I have a subscription to Star Wars Insider, which usually only has about one story that’s not out of date, but they had an interview today with Rick McCallum (producer of the special edition OT and PT films) where he was talking about the new TV series and what medium it would be released through. It’s not the first time he’s said that Star Wars might skip BluRay/HD-DVD and go straight to download. He flat out said that network TV wasn’t what they were looking at, and didn’t want to chop up the flow with commercials. He also talked about 13 episode seasons which would break off and follow characters (which would get their own series). Eh, I’m rambling now about stuff most of you won’t care to know, but it’s pretty exciting to think that in the near future we’ll be getting more direct to consumer shows.

  9. Carol says:

    I heard about this on the radio while driving today and immediately thought, ‘Oh no, poor Pike!’. (How weird is that, I’ve never even met him?) Anyway, the thought of executives trying to bump the per episode price to $5 is insane and is what I like to call ‘management by wishful thinking’. It’s very short-sighted to not have the episodes available in iTunes, they used to be one of the top downloaded shows, and now they’ll get zippo.

  10. Armando says:

    Maybe it’s that I still get my post-air BSG fix through DVDs, but I really don’t get how this is such a sleazy deal. NBC has a right to these properties and should therefore have a right to charge what it feels they’re worth (though I have to say, the bundling stuff sounds like a bunch of craaaaaap to me too). Think about that money eventually making it to the artists who make these shows too. NBC might be a heartless conglomerate, but it does represent these creative individuals who have to earn a living too.

    Now, if the consumers aren’t interested in these pricing options, then it’s our prerogative not to buy NBC’s product at those prices, driving prices back down. Fans being the way we are, though, I doubt that if NBC has its way (though I’m sure some sort of compromise will eventually be struck. Too much money is at stake for both companies) it will make that much of a difference, which is why NBC’s executives probably feel that they can pull this sort of stuff on Apple and its users.

  11. Chuck says:

    Of course NBC, as the owner of this specific intellectual property, has a right to charge whatever they feel it’s worth. I’m not debating that point.

    In the immortal words of The Dude, “You’re not wrong, NBC…”

    In short: I think they’re foolhardy for eschewing iTunes which offer one of the few — maybe even the only — sensible pricing model on the market. Why would I pay $5 an episode for a stupid DRM-overlocked download that I’m going to have a hard time watching on my TV when the DVDs will sell for $35/season? Answer: I won’t. I would, however, pay $1 to $2 per episode for the convenience of watching them in another environment.

    Downloading isn’t going away. It’s only going to increase as a viable way to enjoy music and video. Offering TV at reasonable prices made me really sit up and pay attention to iTunes, even to the point of considering working out a way to easily watch the episodes I buy on my TV. But if NBC (and others) pull out, I’ll likely move on.

    And guys like Pike will find their episodes somewhere — probably somewhere that offers NBC no income at all.

  12. jp | 吉平 says:

    This is a disaster for me. I’m moving to China next month, and I was counting on iTunes for the download. Dammit!

  13. Kappa says:

    On a related pricing note, will be selling *Razor* for nearly $40 (list price is $60)? Yikes! It’s only one disc, and by comparison, Season 1 is going for $45 and S2+2.5 for $52. I mean, I’ll probably buy it eventually, but I’m a lot more likely to hold out and see if they bundle *Razor* with one of the seasons than I otherwise would be. If they’re going to charge this much for two episodes, I can see why NBC wants more control over iTunes pricing; if a person can get the two episodes of *Razor* on iTunes for $5, or even price it like a movie for $13 or so, I think a lot of people might wait for a *Razor*+Season 3 or even *Razor*+Season 4 bundle to buy it on DVD, even if that does mean waiting on the extra content.

  14. Jim says:

    I also forgot to mention the fact that Apple and Disney are linked (Steve Jobs) and that Disney is a big backer of Blu-Ray and of course NBC Universal is big backer of HD-DVD


  15. Armando says:

    Of course you’re right, Chuck. Certainly, the DVD/CD formats are disappearing (I really don’t see either Blue Ray or HD-DVD mattering much once this “format war” is over). On demand downloading is the way of the future (DVDs and CDs will probably, I imagine, be used primarily for backing up these downloaded files by then. That’s basically what I use CDs for now) and I ultimately think that, yes, this move will spell disaster for NBC and not iTunes. NBC is thinking that, since they constitute 30-40% of iTunes total video sales that this puts them in a strong bargaining position. While this is certainly true when it comes to numbers, I think that ultimately the disparity between the quality of the product and the prices they want to charge, will bite them in the proverbial tuchis.

    And in the other immortal words of The Dude: “Do you have any Kalua?”

  16. Joe says:

    This will be a big disaster for scifi shows. The SciFi channel was enjoying a big return to scifi because of advertising on itunes. No more Eureka, Stargate, etc… I’m no fan of Stargate, but they are supposedly making some diurect to dvd movies that would have shown up on itunes eventually. NBC is being thickheaded on this issue. Itunes was nothing but extra money to them. What they are losing is free advertising that they earn money on! And it was free advertising that worked exceptionally well!

  17. The Alpaca Herder says:

    Joe: Wanting to maximize profits from iTunes sales was the goal it appears. Why merely content yourself with what you have now when theoretically you can raise prices to get more? I fear a gas price style view was taken by NBC in the matter…which as long as there remain multiple distribution platforms cannot be the case.

    Armando: Unfortunately, with the relative disappearance of CD/DVD formats I can only ask why. I have yet to see sufficient reason to shift to the new platforms other than production outlets ditching the old formats. The new features really do not excite me or present a sufficient case to go out and buy.

    Kappa: Those prices are a wee bit high. I guess I will be ensuring my TV tuner card is running that night as well as it can.

  18. Pike says:

    Carol: !!! That’s at once the sweetest and funniest thing I’ve read online ever!

    Joe, excellent point. SciFi has been putting up their series pilots for free D/L for a while now, and I’ve been intrigued by one and a half of them (Heros and Dresden, respectively) that I’ll probably buy the DVDs.

    (Completely off topic (that’s how I roll) but I’ve just now noticed that one of the Boston Red Sox is named “Coco Crisp.” I just can’t let that go w/o comment.)

  19. Kappa says:

    Ironic news (and good news for Windows users): has BSG episodes available for download through their “unboxed videos” service, all for $2 a piece. So, NBC has a problem with iTunes only charging $2 per episode, but is fine with doing the same? The big drawback to Amazon’s downloads is that they don’t work for Macs, although it sounds like it works for those who have their TiVo’s hooked to broadband.

  20. A. Lo says:

    This doesn’t pertain to the whole iTunes issue, but I just read on AICN reports that the BSG finale will not air until 2009!!! i.e., SciFi will air 10 eps in Feb 2008, then wait another year to air the rest! I hope they have time to reconsider, as my understanding is that the entirety of the 20 eps will have been filmed by airdate in ’08.

  21. Altair IV says:

    JP mentioned that he planned on using i-Tunes when he was in China to keep his BSG need satisfied.

    Be careful JP!!

    Unfortunately fans outside of the US have lots of obstacles to overcome that US fans would not tolerate. For example neither i-Tunes or Amazon download will service non-US customers for TV programs. JP just might (and I say “might’) be able to buy the episodes from iTunes if he retains his US credit card but if he has a non-US credit card …forget it. JP, don’t count on i-Tunes to save you regardless of the outcome of the Apple / NBC dispute.

    Of course, in China it’s easy to get pirated DVD copies that are mostly cut from bit torrent downloads. So they are quite recent. I’ve got the whole Series 3 BSG disk box set already. On the box they have photos from Star Trek mixed up with BSG images! It’s pretty funny really. All the episodes in the box set have the watermarks and logos from various US and Canadian broadcasters on them and the video sources (and the logos) vary from episode to episode.

    I usually buy a legitimate DVD box set when they are released in Australia, so I can get better quality recordings, correct DVD region codes, and all the extras.

    Doing all that is still better than waiting for BSG to be released on commercial free to air TV over here. In Oz, for example, season 2 started 9 months after BSG in the US and went straight to a 11pm timeslot. And that’s mid-week. Still they did better than the commercial network that had Star Trek. They often used to air episodes near midnight or after, and almost always out of order, they would take them off the air for months and pepper repeats in the mix to stretch out their batch new episodes.

    All of this just about kills any “fan base” interest in Trek or BSG via commercial broadcasters, so non-US fans are often forced into using bit torrent, Chinese pirate DVDs and the whole raft of unauthorised delivery means. So the “Frak Party” thing is pretty common outside of the US. Whoever gets the episode first calls around their friends.

    With treatment of consumers like this, I regard the industry (at least outside of the US) as having seeded the piracy industry. They’ve got what they deserve.

    The one ray of hope, at least, here in Australia has been the recent (this year) establishment of a Sci-Fi channel on Cable TV. Sci-Fi to it’s credit runs current and rerun BSG episodes at decent times of the day and in order.

    If the original content producers are serious about both serving their customers and discouraging piracy they will need to look at the global market as a whole and release globally simultaneously. If this hurts the network of middle men, distributors, local TV networks and packaged content deals… so be it!

  22. DocP says:

    Oh I hope this doesn’t happen. I live in Britain, I’ve already been waiting sinc may (like all of you) dont tell me I have to wait until next may to get season 4 because britain is about 5 months behind amerioca.

  23. Pike says:

    Kappy, that’s interesting. I forgot about Amazon’s Unbox (since I’m a Mac guy,and it doesn’t work for me.) It’ll be interesting to see what happens to that outlet.

    DocP, tell you what, I’ll trade you BSG for DW…

  24. joe says:

    A. Lo, That is the worst news possible. If BSG is delayed for another 12 months, I will be so p.o.’d. Why do all the best quality shows get the shaft?!?!

  25. Armando says:

    Oh A.Lo I so hope AICN is wrong on this one!!!!! The prospect of another 18 month gap, and one in between a single season, sounds pretty unbearable right now. It’s almost like Sci-Fi WANTS to bleed viewers!

  26. Armando says:

    “The one ray of hope, at least, here in Australia has been the recent (this year) establishment of a Sci-Fi channel on Cable TV. Sci-Fi to it’s credit runs current and rerun BSG episodes at decent times of the day and in order.

    If the original content producers are serious about both serving their customers and discouraging piracy they will need to look at the global market as a whole and release globally simultaneously. If this hurts the network of middle men, distributors, local TV networks and packaged content deals… so be it!

    You’re so right, Altair! This whole issue seems to me to be just part of the larger changes happening in the television industry because of technology. The networks/studios just haven’t learned how exactly to adapt to the new ways of delivering product and are frakking things up a bit while they find a new business model for their companies. It doesn’t help that copyright law hasn’t quite caught up to these new trends either. It just seems like this push to cut out iTunes (and now the I-hope-it’s-not-true news that season 4.5 might not air till 2009!!!!) is related to the apparently very low ratings that have plagued this show, which seems to be watched by far more people than Nielsen suggests (i.e. more people are watching BSG–and other shows–through video downloads, DVR players or waiting until a DVD release and not “live” when the show airs). I think that ultimately we’ll see a really exciting future for TV and other media delivery, but in the meantime we have to deal with a frakload of craaaaaap, making it very hard to be a fan of these shows.

  27. Jim says:

    Altair and Armando have it nailed!

    TV viewing has changed alot, personally I watch most TV as they come out on TV, but lately I buy the DVD and do a marathon viewing watching all the episodes in two days. I know alot of people do this.


  28. Sherri says:

    Two Notes:

    Razor Price: Just in case anyone else followed the info about Razor on Amazon, which seemed astronomically high to me, I found that at least one other site (DeepDiscount) has the retail price listed as $26.95 and their current pre-order price is $20.74.

    BSG Not Available on iTunes: Well, I gave up cable a couple of years ago and follow the model of DVD only, with a few notable iTunes exceptions. I guess I will either have to have some DVR it for me, or I will be heading out for BT Airlines too. Too bad, I didn’t mind the double-dip for iTunes and the DVDs, since I generally got the episode the next day. 🙁

  29. Timbuck says:

    Sherry: rockin good news about deepdiscount and the cheaper Razor price!

    If Razor is priced high, who’s gonna NOT buy it. I’m too much of a DVD rewatch junkie to avoid it. I LOVE the idea of a tie-in w season 3!

    Most of these posts made mw feel like a girly-man. Bittorrent? These words are so far beyond my born-in-1969 mentality that I’m fried.

    Based on history: Blu-Ray wins the battle. Sony won’t go all Betamax again!

    If you know what Betamax is, you probably loved the 78 BSG (like me)!

  30. startswithaj says:

    this(nbc going with amazon) really blows for me since I’m a mac user and don’t allow windoze computers in my house…

    about a post Joe made earlier(way up there near the top…sorry..) regarding the stargate movies:
    The stargate movies are being done by MGM, so it could very well show up on itunes(since MGM isnt owned by NBC Uni).

  31. ziebra says:

    I was so irate when I heard that the Amazon Unbox was not Mac compatible…. Its a disgusting move on NBC Universal’s part to further alienate Mac users! I seriously don’t get Amazon’s deal with Tivo, I mean why the fuck would someone who owns a Tivo need to download and play TV shows…. surely they would just record them! I have no cable, a very weak TV signal (NBC is the worst), and a rabid appetite for TV! Unfortunately the majority of what I “watch” is owned by NBC Universal. I don’t want to break the law, or watch shitty quality live TV…..WTF can WE do about this???

  32. Kappa says:

    Horrible thougth: NBC is not going to put anymore of its TV shows on iTunes, and iTunes has stopped promoting any of NBC’s shows that are still up. So, the NBC-iTunes relationship is not at all good. Will NBC still want RDM’s podcasts to be posted on iTunes, since the podcasts are, corporately speaking, a promotional tool, but now there’s going to be nothing for them to promote on the iTunes site? I really hope the RDM podcasts continue anyway. Oh well, at least we’ll still have GWC, no matter how snitty NBC gets…

  33. Pike says:

    The RDM casts will continue. IIRC, they predated the BSG-on-iTunes thing. It doesn’t cost Apple anything (they just list them) and given how popular iTunes is with people who listen to podcasts, it’d be foolish for NBC not to list them there. (Of course, NBC might just take the ‘foolish’ option.)

  34. Bob The Heavy Raider says:

    Sounds like the problem wouldn’t be if they are available on iTunes, but if they will be available at all as NBC spites everything with “pod” in the name. Anyone know the story behind the podcasts? If RDM does them because he wants to, then I would guess there is no risk, but if he was being made to do them, we may have a problem. They eventually become the comment tracks for the DVDs anyway, so probably better for RDM if they continue at the one a week pace rather than the “lets watch a whole season at once and get bitter by the end!” method of commentary recording.

  35. Sheryl says:

    Just tell NBC: I want my iTunes!


  36. Katja says:

    BSG’s fourth season is going ot be huge with fans. I was pretty angry to see if off iTunes. Fans are going to find a way to get the epsiodes one way or another. This was the most idiotic move NBC made, they are going to loose lots of money now that they pulled BSG from iTunes.

  37. Pike says:

    Yeah, probably.

    Weird thing is, they probably aren’t even taking that into consideration. It’s all about their streaming-only site. SO easy to use. And move to my iPhone.



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