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NBC leaves Apple for Amazon

From one less-than-ultimate experience to another

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After ending its relationship with Apple, NBC has jumped in bed with Amazon.

Late last week, NBC Universal all but pulled its TV shows from iTunes, unhappy with the $1.99 price tag Apple slaps on new episodes. But the media behemoth has now agreed to sell many of the same shows over Amazon's Unbox service - at exactly the same price.

Older NBC shows are already available from the Amazon video download service at $1.99 a pop, and the world's most popular e-tailer has confirmed that new shows from the upcoming TV season will carry the same price tag.

On Thursday, NBC told Apple it was not renewing their contract to sell "The Office," "Heroes," and other TV shows over iTunes. The contract wasn't due to expire until December, but Apple got all huffy, saying it would preemptively axe NBC's shows sometime this month.

According to Apple, NBC failed to renew the contract because Jobs and Co. wouldn't pony up more money for the shows. Evidently, NBC wanted "more than double" the existing wholesale price, and Apple refused to comply, claiming that such a deal would see iTunes' retail price jump from $1.99 to $4.99.

But it looks like NBC was happy to settle for a $1.99 retail price on Unbox.

NBC and Amazon announced their Unbox agreement yesterday, though a deal was long in the works. According to an Amazon spokesman, NBC TV shows popped up on the service as much as three weeks ago - before the media giant parted ways with Apple.

"With the addition of NBC Universal TV content to Amazon Unbox, fans now have the ultimate convenience for enjoying their favorite shows whenever or wherever they want," said Jean-Briac Perrette, NBC president of digital distribution. "This further expands our longstanding relationship to bring a robust content offering to the marketplace in a variety of ways that will benefit the consumer and, at the same time, protects our content."

That "ultimate convenience" bit sounds like a swipe at Apple. But the term is no more appropriate when applied to Unbox. The ultimate digital video experience wouldn't involve DRM.

Yes, Unbox videos can be viewed on Windows machines, but they don't play on iMacs, iPods, or iPhones. For what it's worth, NBC shows are still available on iTunes - though Apple no longer promotes them on iTunes landing pages. ®

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