iTunes tests subscription pricing

The Unofficial Apple Weblog notes a very interesting development at Apple’s iTunes media store. Apple has been adamant up to now about selling individual songs, albums, and videos at standard prices. It has avoided subscription pricing entirely (though it does offer free podcast subscriptions). But iTunes is now selling subscriptions to two TV programs, Jon Stewart’s Daily Show and the Colbert Report. You can still buy individual episodes, for the usual $1.99 a pop, but you can also subscribe to 16 episodes for $9.99. The future episodes are downloaded to your computer automatically as they become available.

I wouldn’t rush to read too much into this new option, but any change in Apple’s pricing approach is newsworthy. This may be the first indication that Apple is loosening its previously rigid pricing and purchasing policies – something that media companies have long been lobbying for.

4 thoughts on “iTunes tests subscription pricing

  1. james brown

    If one egg is $2 but a dozen is $4, why not buy a dozen.

    Maybe i am misreading you but it seems like you are saying, that when i buy 12 eggs at the grocery store i am subscribing to that grocer.

    iTMS has always sold songs in an album or individually, (well some odd cases), generally the same idea. There is even a few ‘box’ sets, that have multiple albums. At the end of the day you might have a point when I can only play a file for a limited time.

  2. Nick

    If you give the grocer $4 for twelve eggs, you’re buying a dozen eggs. If you give the grocer $4 to deliver one egg a day to your house for 12 days, then you’re buying an egg subscription.

    I think.

  3. B

    At first, it did’t look like a revolution to me: they just treated shows like albums (tracks at one buck and the whole thing at ten). But I agree with Nick, though: the automatic delivery makes things more simple—in a very DRMy way. The offer is fine, what should be interesting is the consequence on user habits, being helped through the easy slope.

  4. Bryan Feeney

    You’re misunderstanding the controversy.

    When Apple says it is opposed to subscriptions, it means the subscription services provided by its competitors, whereby you can buy all the music you want, but if you fail to renew your subscription, all the music you acquired will fail to work.

    With Apple, you don’t subscribe to the service: you buy and then own[1] individual tracks. If you never buy anything again, that’s okay, the tracks will continue to work. The subscriptions they’re offering now are a direct analogue to those offered by the print-press: you pay upfront for the next number of episodes/issues, and you are rewarded with a discount. This is perfect for episodic current affairs shows like the Daily Show which lose appeal after time has passed (and are therefore not suitable for sale as a series).

    [It’s also ideal for podcasts, but that’s another story.]

    So the basic premise behind Apple’s iTunes Music Store (iTMS) hasn’t changed at all, it’s just introduced a new variant on the buy-and-own philosophy suited to current affairs programs.

    [1] It’s worth mentioning that while you may “own” the music, it will only play in Apple’s iTunes music player. People who have upgraded the music player in the past have seen things they could previously have done with their music cease to function, or else be limited (e.g. sharing music across the house). Thus to maintain the rights you were granted when you bought the music, you must never upgrade the player, which can become awkward as you will be prompted constantly and the iTMS may cease to function until you do so.

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