How much is mobile video worth? In the UK, Apple reckons it’s £1.89 per clip; presumably it’ll be the same for TV downloads if the UK store follows its American counterpart. That seems awfully steep.
Let’s take Desperate Housewives as an example; it’s one of the shows US customers can buy via iTunes. There are 23 episodes in season 1, so at £1.89 per episode that works out as £43.47. The same season is available as a six-disc DVD with an RRP of £44, but in practice it sells for much cheaper: Amazon.co.uk is currently flogging it for £29.99. And of course, DVD is much better quality than any digital download, plus you get various special features, fancy packaging and so on. With downloads, you’re paying a hefty price for convenience when you’re ultimately getting an inferior product.
For now, iTunes UK’s video content seems to be music-only. So how does that compare? If iTunes sells U2’s “U2 Go Home” live videos, that’s 19 tracks – £35.91. Buy it on DVD and you get those tracks plus bonus stuff for £19.99 (RRP) or £16.99 (street price). I don’t see any sign of video bundles on iTunes yet, but such multi-buy pricing will be essential if Apple doesn’t want people to feel ripped off.
Over at Daring Fireball, John Gruber notes:
$1.99 for each TV show, in only 320×240 resolution, doesn’t seem like a good deal to me. I already get these shows with my cable TV; paying for them again in a crummy low-res format strikes me as a bad deal — like if you had to pay for songs you already own on CD. Of course, I think ringtones sound like a bad deal, too, but people buy billions of them.
I’m inclined to agree. Apple will no doubt sell videos to lots of people, but I won’t be one of them.
By the way, I very much doubt the video pricing was dictated by Apple. The days of record companies seeing videos as a promotional tool rather than a source of revenue are long gone, and any video clip sales need the record labels’ approval. Had Apple pitched them any cheaper, I doubt they’d have been granted the necessary licenses.