iTunes Pricing

I am a media lawyer by trade. I spend more than half my time arranging and negotiating licences of movies, tv-shows, tv-formats and other media from one part of the world to another, across all distribution formats.

Even with this experience I’m buggered if I can work out why iTunes is selling TV series for more than £50 (c.f House series 5 for example) whereas you can buy the same at Amazon for £28. And Amazon will ship for free and you get nice stable DVD’s too. No DRM either (or none worth speaking of).

This pricing disparity is madness and is repeated in other areas such as music (it is significantly cheaper to buy a cd from amazon than it is to buy a download from iTunes.

Well … in iTunes favour, immediacy may be better provided by Apple. But for TV series this is not the case. House, for example, is likely to be 14GB per series. Even on my stonkingly fast cable connection it’s going to be quicker to order this at 15h00 from Amazon and have it delivered in the next morning’s post.

I am all in favour of digital downloads as a means to monetise otherwise pirated revenue. But for this to be realistic we need two things:
1. immediacy of availability – episodes need to be available immediately once they have been televised (which is when they are available on the pirate bay). I don’t particularly care if there is a small amount of pre-post-roll advertising, personally.
2. the price needs to reflect at maximum the likely retail price for DVD versions LESS printing of the sleeves, DVD media costs, production costs, case costs and postage. then there needs to be further discounting for the avoidance of warehousing costs. We’ll offset the costs of data storage against the personnel costs involved in packaging and shipping from a comparative e-retailer. breaking this down.

retail price: £28
DVD production (need 4 dvd’s for this series): say £3
sleeve printing: 50p
DVD case: 80p
p&p: £2.50
total retail margin: £21.70

so let’s say £20 for a premium recent series should be the absolute _maximum_ chargeable by iTunes.

and for music – let’s reduce track prices to around £0.15 and albums to around £3. this will entail a renegotiation with MCPS who take a minimum 10p for some transaction, but the anachronistic organisation needs a damn good kicking anyway.

I’m a copyright lawyer, I’m a computer specialist and I’m against copyright piracy in principal. But it is hard to be sympathetic to the media owners when the channel pricing is so flawed. The only way to beat the ‘criminal’ element is to convert them to lawful ways. Don’t do this with a stick: it won’t work. Do this by making it utterly painless for us to do things right.

1 Comment

AndréNovember 20th, 2009 at 12:02 am

actually, the ricing is quite simple and iTunes is giving away presents as well..
a TV episode is 1,99 for SD and 2,99 for a HD version.. count the number of episodes and you will see that for the price of the whole season you get one episode for free!

but, since you Yankees don’t know that, there is a lot more

every country has it’s own store.. so here, in the Netherlands, we don’t even have movies or tv shows. it’s been promised we would have it 2 years ago but nope.. the only way to get into the US store is to use an American adress when you register, hotels would be a good thing, and then purchase with gift cards you buy from the internet.. i might be wrong, but i think it’s not really legal

at the same time, take a look at the Canadian store and see how different it is from the US one.. it is all about marketing, advertising and what not.. it is THE reason piracy exists.. people want to watch the shows that sites like are talking about but they can’t.. it’s not broadcasted in their country or availbale on iTunes..

yet, i have no problem buying the whole season package on Amazon or even at the local store here, but that is all old news.. it’s only availbale when the season is over and iTunes is simply cashing in on the NOW factor our society demands.. paying big bucks or just plain illegal, but we want everything right now!

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