In August, after the spat between Apple and NBC over iTunes video pricing erupted, we ran back of the envelope numbers and concluded that this wasn’t a fight about current dollars: At best, we figured, NBC was netting $50 million annually from iTunes.
Wrong, NBC’s Jeff Zucker said today — NBC was making much less. Zucker, in a breakfast interview with the New Yorker’s Ken Auletta, says NBC booked just $15 million from iTunes video sales in the last year.
We also predicted that NBC and Apple would patch things up soon, but if you take Zucker’s comments at face value, NBC and Apple remain miles apart on both strategy and tactics. NBC not only wanted to experiment with pricing (read: raise prices) on some of its videos, but it wanted a piece of Apple’s hardware sales, presumably as compensation for cannibalised revenues. If Zucker was serious about this demand, then NBC really isn’t coming back to iTunes: Steve Jobs is no Bill Gates, who only agreed to cut the music labels in on Zune sales as a sign of desperation.
“Apple sold millions of dollars worth of hardware off the back of our content and made a lot of money,” Zucker said. “They did not want to share in what they were making off the hardware or allow us to adjust pricing.”
Then again, this could all be posturing, both with regards to Apple negotiations (remember that NBC’s contract with Apple doesn’t expire until the end of the year) and with regards to labour relations: Hollywood writers are set to strike this week, in large part because they want a bigger piece of the digital pie, and Hollywood execs are taking great pains to explain that there is no digital pie, at least for now. Variety
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