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Apple TV: wait and sue

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Analysis For worse, the online media market continues to fracture into the haves and the have nots - those that have partnered with Apple and those that have not.

Media companies baffling the public with their ineptitude is nothing new. Apple had to drag the labels kicking and screaming to iTunes. Now, Apple has had to show the mogul crowd how to do a subscription service right by this week offering a discount on TV shows (The Daily Show and The Colbert Report) and letting consumers keep their programs. Why Napster, Real and the RIAA think making music disappear at the end of an expensive subscription will prove attractive is anyone's guess.

With that in mind, the media giants who have partnered with Apple - particularly for TV downloads - must thank God that Steve Jobs exists.

The pigopolists would never figure this stuff out on their own. They would never have agreed to meet in one place - iTunes - without the charismatic Jobs showing them the way. Companies like ABC and NBC would have taken years to push their TV shows onto the interweb at a somewhat sensible price.

And it's not like Apple does all that fantastic job of the media delivery in the first place. Apple refuses to open iTunes content to cheaper, non-iPod portable music players. In addition, it hasn't bothered to set up a proper channel for the TV shows, opting instead for a wee link on its Music Store. The format of the TV sales site itself pretty much sucks as you have to fight with iTunes to get descriptions of individual episodes. And, we reckon, the prices for the shows - $1.99 - are a bit high given that the regular, old advertising model on the tube delivers just a few cents per person in revenue to the networks. Why not cut us a break and cut the price down to $1.00 per episode? Have a heart.

Such gripes, however, remain trivial when you look at what the competition has to offer.

CBS, for example, made the mistake of partnering with Google. To this day, you can only buy two episodes of CSI - the most popular show on TV - from Google. You can buy zero episodes of CSI from CBS.

Beyond that, the Google Video Store looks like it was designed by a hemorrhaging five-year-old with a predilection for the small box of crayons and bad code.

While CBS executives scratch their bums wondering why they believed that rocking BusinessWeek story about Google, Apple has teamed with Comedy Central to sell episodes of The Daily Show and The Colbert Report as part of a discounted, quasi-subscription package.

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