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Microsoft Pri0

Welcome to Microsoft Pri0: That's Microspeak for top priority, and that's the news and observations you'll find here from Seattle Times technology reporter Matt Day.

February 7, 2006 at 12:58 PM

Cable vs. the new pay-per-view

It would be interesting to know what cable and satellite companies think about Showtime selling some of its programming on Apple’s iTunes service, a move that was announced today.

This has the potential to shatter the subscription-only model that has supported the Comcasts of the world. Instead of paying monthly fees for digital cable and then more for a premium movie channel such as Showtime, you can pay $2 for an episode of “Sleeper Cell.”

The jaw-dropping moment will be if and when “The Sopranos” shows up on iTunes. HBO fiercely protects this property, and has gone so far as to send intimidating letters to bars that broadcast the show for customers. The network wouldn’t allow a move to iTunes without a serious fight.

But as more premium-only shows become available to non-subscribers, as they surely will, what will this do to the economics of cable? No doubt these moves are being closely watched by some Puget Sound companies, including Microsoft, RealNetworks and Digeo.

ITunes video sales, by the way, have amounted only to a measly $2.5 million in revenue for NBC, and a third of that is from one show, “The Office,” according to a recent Newsweek article. But offering the show on iTunes increased its regular weekly audience by millions and helped “The Office” become a breakout hit.

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