Q. What do Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert, and Ricky Gervais all have in common?
A. Consumers can now buy paid subscriptions to their latest programs through iTunes.
While Steve Jobs has resisted subscription pricing since the inception of iTunes, today’s launch of the Multi-Pass subscription video service is the first sign that Apple may be willing to tinker with it’s highly successful standardized pricing model. For $9.99 consumers can now buy 16 episodes of The Daily Show or The Colbert Report. That’s only $3 more than you’ll pay for four episodes of The Ricky Gervais Show.
Strangely, Apple is claiming that Multi-Pass isn’t a subscription service. Apparently the fact that you happen to be paying in advance for a month’s worth of programming doesn’t make it a “subscription”.
Apple’s vice-president of iTunes, Eddy Cue, said MultiPass is not a subscription service, even though customers would pay for it on a monthly basis.
“This is something that you can always own as a download,” he said. That makes it different from other online music subscription services like Napster or Real Networks’ Rhapsody, where consumers lose their music if they unsubscribe.
Right, but I also won’t lose my back issues of the LA Times if I unsubscribe, and that’s still called a subscription.
Semantics aside, the new Multi-Pass service does seem to solve a potentially major problem that could plague iTunes as it expands the scope of it’s entertainment content. Standardized pricing just isn’t suited to certain types of programming. While consumers have shown a willingness to shell out $1.99 per episode of The Office, it seems less likely that they would be willing to pay the same for an episode of The Daily Show or The Colbert report, both of which run new episodes four days a week. As iTunes expands to include daily programming they need a different pricing model. The multi-pass seems to be the answer.