Turtle races.

Friday, March 10th, 2006

I casually mentioned in my last entry that Apple had begun selling episodes of The Daily Show (and The Colbert Report) on the iTunes Store (I tend to drop the ‘Music’ from its name these days) using a ‘multipass’ idea that is like (actual, magazine) subscriptions…you get the current episode and 15 more for $9.99.

No, please, allow me to do the math: 62.4375 cents per episode. And by the way, these downloaded shows look just fine on plain old standard-definition NTSC television, playing off of our Mac Mini—or our video iPod if we’re on the road.

My casualness was slightly misplaced. This is a big deal.

Ashlee Vance in The Register channels Don McLean and declares it “The day the bundled cable died.” In a short piece loaded with quotables, she adds:

We’ll all look back on this deal as the day that TV delivery changed in earnest.
Apple has managed to repeat its tradition not of discovering something new but of doing something obvious first.
Plenty of MP3s players existed before the iPod. Apple just made the obvious better design and the obvious better store and backed it up with the obvious better marketing. That’s not to say this is easy. It’s just obvious.
Similarly, pushing TV via the internet isn’t a new idea. Doing it well is an obvious path to a promising business.
Apple receives great praise for moving at a turtle’s pace when the rest of the industry moves at a crippled turtle’s pace.

I guess we’ll take our turtles where we can get them. She mentions CBS’s attempts at selling temporary “looks” at shows through Google. Can’t take ’em with you, can’t play ’em easily on the mini, can’t play them a month from now…I’m not interested.

It’s worth making the point directly: it’s not that folks want to keep every episode of the Daily Show forever and ever…it’s that they want complete freedom when and where they can play what they’ve paid for. There is an important distinction in there.

This marks a changepoint and a step in the right direction. And for us, it’s not the magic of Apple…we’ll pay these kinds of prices to whoever will let us download (not stream) the episodes and keep them around and play them on portable devices (well, one device in particular).

As we walked the other day, I ran the numbers with Sammy, and there’s a lot of television we could buy at these prices if you take the just-under-$50 we pay Comcast right now for analog cable.

So now when Scripps does a deal with Apple (no, hasn’t happened quite yet) and suddenly there’s a lot of Food Network available a la carte, we’ll be asking…why do we have cable, again? We get better weather from the internet, we get better news from the internet, and when breaking news happens these days we’re no longer guaranteed that CNN will be all over it (in fact, it’s more likely we’ll see more if we subscribe to their ‘Pipeline’ service).

And I sure would never like to (even indirectly) pay for Home Shopping or Fox News again.