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Sunday, October 30th, 2005

Sammy and I took a look at the new iPods up at Lenox last week, and they’re cute, cool, all of that…although at this point not quite cool and cute enough to compel me to reach walletward. If our venerable first-generation iPod suddenly died, I would buy with gusto, but until then, I’m treating our geezerPod with all the gingerness and TLC that I am our Powerbook, which is considerably more on-its-last-legs.

But the model of a la carte TV show purchasing Steve Jobs and company introduced along with those new iPods really is (for me) the seed of something way more interesting…a way to move away from the tyranny of ad support and somewhat closer to those who want the content (no more and no fewer) paying the freight.

Nathan Alderman on does some very interesting math:

Suppose Fox announces that it’s cancelling Arrested Development. Now suppose that Apple and the show’s producers put up a whole new season on iTunes for preorder, promising to crank out the episodes if enough folks pay up to see it. Say the same 2 million or so folks who watch Arrested each week sign up for a 22-episode season at $35 a pop. If Apple gets, oh, 25 percent of that, it still works out to roughly $2.3 million an episode for producers to crank out the further adventures of the Bluth clan. (A quick Google search suggests the show currently costs $1.5 million an episode to produce. Does anyone else hear cash registers?) If those episodes also air on TV, the ad revenue would kick in even more to the budget. And even more money would trickle in over months and years as new folks discovered the show and signed up to download the newly made episodes.

This could be big. This could be Veronica Mars never getting cancelled big. In my sad, sad little dreams, this could even be new episodes of Firefly or Farscape big.

That sound you hear is several thousand die-hard fans rushing to their keyboards, looking for someone, anyone to bombard with e-mails. Be afraid. Or excited. Or possibly both.

Now, of course, the supposition that stands out here begging to be challenged is that the “same 2 million or so” folks have access to broadband, the iTunes store and a way to play the videos. I’m quite sure that at this moment that’s not the case, but I’m also comfortable envisioning a day when that might be the way the world works. So I’m very happy that two big’ol’corps like Apple and Disney/ABC are testing the waters. And I hope they’re happy with what they’re seeing this early in the model.

Update:Apple today announced that its iTunes Music Store has sold more than one million videos since it began selling them on on October 12. That’d pay for an episode or two of Firefly…