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NBC pulls out of iTunes

NBC pulls out of iTunes — Where will downloaders go for their ”Office” and ”Heroes” fix?

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There’s a rumble in the silicon jungle: On Aug. 31, NBC announced that it will not renew its contract with iTunes, meaning episodes of all NBC Universal shows — including those on sister networks USA, Sci Fi, and Bravo — will no longer be available to download from Apple’s site once the current pact expires in December. NBC said it pulled out of the agreement because of iTunes’ lack of pricing flexibility and concerns about Internet piracy. That same day, Apple countered that the network had asked it to agree to a ”dramatic price increase” — and, as a result, the download giant said it would not offer any new or returning NBC Universal shows this fall, essentially pulling the plug before the December expiration date. (NBC claims iTunes is contractually obligated to offer new episodes of returning shows like The Office and Heroes through December, but Apple says it isn’t. At press time, this dispute hadn’t been resolved.) The spat couldn’t come at a worse time for NBC, which badly needs one of its new fall series to break out this season. Its shows account for a whopping 30-40 percent of iTunes TV downloads — The Office was virtually saved from cancellation thanks to word-of-mouth buzz from iTunes users. At the moment, viewers who want to watch NBC’s new fall lineup on the go will have to use Amazon’s Unbox, which allows PC users to download episodes to their computers, TiVo boxes, or lesser-known portable devices like Zen Vision. Meanwhile, a spokesperson for NBC’s upcoming video venture, Hulu.com, had no comment as to whether it will feature downloads of any kind. Says Heroes creator Tim Kring: ”Heroes was one of the most downloaded shows on iTunes, if not the most downloaded show on iTunes last year. I’m very concerned about this news.” — Additional reporting by Jeff Jensen and Adam B. Vary