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NBC Universal, the iTunes Store, and poor me

My consumption of TV programming is far below the national average, but there are a few shows my wife and I watch religiously. When we were contemplating our move to France, that’s one of the things we spent a lot of time talking about. French TV stations don’t carry most of our favorite shows, so how are we going to keep up with them? To make a long story short, I eventually learned that the iTunes Store had about 80 percent of the content I cared about, and the rest appeared to be available from other sources. That was a relief for me. It’s not like I would have decided not to move here if I couldn’t see House every week, but still…

So the recent news that the iTunes Store will no longer carry content from NBC Universal came as quite a blow to me. There goes my Battlestar Galactica and The Office, two of the very few shows on my “just can’t live without” list. I don’t really care about the details – whether Apple was taking the high ground by not increasing prices and DRM restrictions, or whether they were being petty by dropping NBC Universal rather than showing some flexibility. All I care about is: I want to watch my shows.

I like iTunes and the iTunes Store well enough, and getting my content there is certainly convenient. I’ve got a Mac mini hooked up to my TV, and I can watch movies and TV shows easily using my Apple Remote and Front Row as the interface. But it’s not a big deal to use another player or another store. What is a big deal is that Amazon Unbox, which NBC Universal will be switching to as their distribution mechanism, doesn’t support Macs at all.

I have successfully purchased and downloaded Amazon Unbox videos and watched them on my Mac mini using Windows XP running under Parallels Desktop. The performance wasn’t the smoothest ever, but it was tolerable. It’s just that that’s a lot of aggravation to have to go through simply to watch a TV show. It shouldn’t be that hard, and it wasn’t until last week.

I’ll continue purchasing and watching the shows I care about, but it irritates me that I now have to jump through so many hoops – to take several steps backwards in convenience – not out of technological necessity but because of the caprices of a few big corporations.

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