Jeff Zucker identifies nose, cuts it off to spite his face

static4.jpgOK, this isn’t movie related but I feel compelled to comment on this. In much-discussed remarks on the eve of Hulu.com’s launch, NBC Universal chief Jeff Zucker said that part of his company’s problems with iTunes was that they wouldn’t discuss flexible pricing of TV shows. He complained that NBCU only made $15 million from having its shows on iTunes, and couldn’t get either the flexible pricing he wanted or a cut of the hardware Apple was selling.

A couple points:

Jeff – You complain that your can’t get a cut of iPod sales? Did you go to Dell, Hewlett-Packard or any other PC maker and say, “We’re streaming our shows online and people are watching those shows on computers from you – that means you owe us money!” I’m betting you didn’t, simply because you don’t like being laughed out of rooms.

Jeff – You complain about the lack of flexible pricing and say that you only made $15 million from iTunes. How much would you have made without those shows being on iTunes? And you can’t just count direct download income, either, since time after time I read about people trying out “The Office” or some other show online and then tuning into the TV broadcasts. So you also have to figure in additional broadcast viewers and the additional ad income from those viewers.

Apple does a lot of things well with its iTunes store and established itself early-on as a market leader in the download-to-own music market, a position it then leveraged when it expanded to TV shows. Other players are now entering that market with different products, but in order to compete against Apple they’re having to bend-over backwards to accommodate companies like NBCU in terms of pricing and such. Microsoft is one of the lead perpetrators of this thinking, giving record labels a cut from every Zune they sell (both of them) but again, that’s largely because they needed to give something away in order to enter the market.

There are problems and they’re real, but to pull your content from the leading seller of direct download-to-own media seems to me to be extremely short-sighted.