Written by Internet, Media, TV

ITV on iTunes

ITV is dipping its toe in the iTunes water by making available some of its back catalogue on the iTunes television store.
This is no bad thing, but I think that it does again highlight some of the issues that dealing with Apple can introduce. Despite some of the series being over forty years old (The Saint – series 4), the price of each episode is fixed at £1.89. That’s just too much.
Last year the Daily Mail actually gave away the whole of Brideshead Revisited, so charging £1.89 an episode feels steep. Certainly there are savings to made by buying the whole series, but at &17.99 its still a couple of quid more than the boxed set on Amazon. The DVDs, of course, work in many more places than in iTunes and on an iPod. They’re also in higher resolution, and come with various extras all of which are lacking from the iTunes store version.
Now I don’t want to poo-poo this venture, as it’s genuinely a good idea to get these programmes out into as many places as possible. But it’s quite telling that no current programmes are being made available. The most up to date show that has been released so far (and to be fair, today’s day one) is Lewis – series 1, obviously. Wouldn’t want to let series 2 out of the gate just yet.
I think the problem really still lies with iTunes insisting on a fixed price for a programme, be it a brand new one hour drama or a decades old half hour comedy. Retailers should be able to adjust their prices as bricks and mortar retailers do. It may be that you can sell this week’s Headbangers for 49p, but Foyles War should cost £3.50.
It’s undoubtedly an experiment, and ITV is to be applauded. But what we’re all waiting for is Kangaroo – the joint BBC Worldwide/ITV/Channel 4 service that Ashley Highfield is leaving the BBC to run. Kangaroo is going to try to effectively be a commercial version of the iPlayer. While details remain unclear, I’d expect both paid and ad-funded models to be tested. Video DRM is always going to be more of an issue, but even if all the service does is put everyone’s programming in one place and playable with one piece of software, then it’s got to be better than the piecemeal channel by channel approach that’s taken place so far.
Of course a cynic might wonder whether Kangaroo is the reason that only archive programming is being made available to iTunes at the moment. If I can buy Foyles War on iTunes for one price, and on Kangaroo at another price, then there’s true competition. But ITV doesn’t want the service it owns part of to be undercut by someone else. Nor does it want Apple to run away with a nascent market before it’s had a go itself – that’s something the music industry has come to regret on an enormous scale.
By the way, if all this talk of Brideshead Revisited makes you want to watch the series again, there’s a free route: ITV.com has the whole series available to stream on demand. It tends to only work with Windows and using Internet Explorer, and it’s ad-funded. But there it is, free of charge.
In fact ITV.com has a great deal of classic drama, comedy and kids programming available to stream including Press Gang, The Jewel in the Crown, Rising Damp, Cracker, Morse, Poirot, Sherlock Holmes, Prime Suspect and much more. The interface is clunky, and it’s hard to work out what’s there, but they’ve got a great deal.