When Apple introduced its new video-capable iPod in October, the early iTunes Music Store video offerings were limited to ABC and Disney Channel television programs. Don’t get me wrong, I like "Desperate Housewives" and "Lost," but I yearned for this new service to explore more of its potential. Last week’s Apple announcement of a deal with NBC Universal realizes that dream for me.
Now available is a much broader selection of entertainment, featuring such NBC drama as "Law & Order" and "Surface," the nightly shows of Leno and Conan, science fiction masterpiece "Battlestar Galactica" from the Sci-Fi Channel, and the USA Network hit "Monk." But of more interest to me, since I can already watch all of those shows via DISH Network, is the collection of vintage NBC shows like "Adam-12," "Dragnet," and even "Knight Rider," plus the first season of "Law & Order."
Episodes of each show are available for $1.99, with new episodes available the day after they air on television. (Currently, TV shows are available only in the U.S., and availability of other videos varies by country.) Just as music albums often offer songs for a total price lower than 99 cents each, TV series "seasons" are typically available for a lower total price than $1.99 per episode.
NBC Universal and Apple are cleverly taking advantage of the recent surge in DVD sales of old TV shows. If you’ll buy old "Bewitched" episodes on DVD, why not grab an old "Alfred Hitchcock Presents" episode to take on the morning commute? The programs are all commercial-free, in contrast to announcements last month that the NBC and CBS networks would offer 99-cent on-demand shows with commercials via DirecTV and Comcast Digital Cable, respectively. Noticeably absent is the NBC Nightly News Netcast with Brian Williams, available for free in Windows Media format on MSNBC.com each weeknight after 10 PM Eastern.
Apple says iTunes Music Store customers have purchased more than three million videos since the service’s debut less than two months ago, for viewing in iTunes or the Front Row application included with the latest iMac, or on an iPod. Add me to the list; my first TV show download, of the long-ago pilot episode of "Law & Order," is almost finished. Would you believe, considering how many times a day "Law & Order" airs on TV, I’ve never seen the pilot?