Future Apple TV owners, we hope you like Fox and ABC a whole lot, because NBC Universal is only the latest studio to say they're not sharing their toys—$0.99 rentals would "devalue" their content, says NBC Universal's CEO. [CNET via SlashGear]
So. Apple charging $0.99 for a rental is devaluing it, but giving it away for $0.00 on NBC.com and hulu.com isn't?
If anyone has devalued the content it's the networks. This whole thing actually has nothing to do with devaluation. Let's review:
In the beginning people just torrented everything and paid the networks nothing.
Then Apple showed a model that people were willing to pay for to download the shows. All the networks got onboard but then some decided Apple wasn't charging enough. Some of them essentially declared that the jump from making nothing to some odd millions of dollars on downloads wasn't enough. So they took their shows and formed hulu and started showing episodes on their own sites for free.
After a while they seemed to realize that $0 was less than $millions and they sadly wandered back to iTunes.
Now Apple has actually sweetened the pot for the networks. People still need to pay per dowload, but the content expires. Not content with the terms, the networks are now playing the same game again.
Really though this, like the DRM-music battle before it, has nothing to do with content valuation. It's about content providers asserting control over their media. They don't want iTunes to be the be all provider for everything so when given the opportunity to weaken iTunes they will.
This happened before with music, primarily when the labels gave Amazon DRM-free downloads in an effort to weaken Apple's grip on the music market. It didn't work, and in the end Apple got the DRM-free music it wanted.
This is happening again now with the network sites and network-owed hulu. They will take a loss in order to try and weaken Apple's grip on the digital media market. I would not be surprised at all to see other services offering the show rentals with "advantages" over iTunes.
In the end they'll be back. They always are.