RealTime IT News

HBO to Air Shows on iTunes

Time Warner's (NYSE: TWX) HBO cable network will start selling shows on Apple's (NASDAQ: AAPL) iTunes digital entertainment service with flexible pricing, the companies said on Monday.

The move marks the first time Apple has agreed to sell television shows at different prices in the United States. Episodes of some HBO shows will be sold at the standard price of $1.99 per episode or higher, sources said.

As a result, HBO shows such as "Sex and the City, "Flight of the Conchords" and "The Wire" can be downloaded at $1.99 per episode, while "The Sopranos," "Deadwood," and "Rome" are priced at a $2.99 per episode.

Eddy Cue, Apple's vice president of iTunes, said the HBO shows now available at its Web store are some of the series most frequently requested by its customers.

Although some global iTunes stores, including Japan, already sell songs at different prices, Apple has resisted offering music or television shows at different prices for the sake of simplicity for consumers.

But studio and music company executives have pushed for variable pricing, such as the ability to sell some content at lower prices and new releases at higher prices, which they believe would improve sales from its older catalogs.

Apple's pricing structure also was part of the reason why General Electric's (NYSE: GE) NBC Universal decided last year to pull its shows from iTunes.

Since then, NBC has made some shows available for streaming on Apple's iPhone as well made some available for sale on iTunes' U.K. store.

For HBO -- home to hit series such as "The Sopranos" and "Sex And The City" -- the move marks the first time it has made its shows available for sale in electronic form. It is currently testing a broadband service for subscribers in Wisconsin, which streams episodes of shows shortly after their first airing.

HBO plans to make some of the shows available on iTunes when its sells them on DVD, after the initial airing of the entire season, one source said, preserving its relationship with subscribers and cable operators who pay HBO a fee for every new subscriber.

Other broadcast and cable networks make their shows available as early as the next day after broadcast.