When Steve Jobs introduced the new Apple TV in September 2010, he made a strong case for renting television shows instead of buying them, but now the company is changing its strategy and letting users purchase TV shows as well.
According to John Gruber at Daring Fireball, the latest Apple TV update allows U.S. users to purchase TV shows on iTunes and stream them through the Internet. Any shows that users have previously bought on iTunes are also available for streaming, with no need to re-purchase. The update also adds online streaming video from Vimeo.
What Jobs Thought in 2010
Here's what Steve Jobs said about streaming TV rentals vs. purchases nearly a year ago:
"We've gone to the rental model in this. There's no purchases on Apple TV anymore. You rent everything. The prices are more affordable, and guess what? There's no storage problem, because you don't store things anymore, you just rent them. And the rental prices are so inexpensive, you can afford to watch something several times and it's still cheaper than if you were to buy."
At the time, Apple had enlisted Fox and ABC to rent their television shows on iTunes for 99 cents apiece, with hopes that NBC, CBS and other networks would follow suit. So far, that hasn't happened. NBC still offers its primetime shows, such as Parks and Recreation, for purchase only at $3 per HD episode. CBS is stingier, offering a small number of primetime shows in standard definition for $2 per episode.
With no rental options available for NBC or CBS, Apple TV users had to download shows onto their computers and stream them over a local network. By relenting on its 99-cent rental ambitions, Apple is giving consumers a more convenient way to buy and watch these shows. I suppose that's a good thing, although it now seems even less likely that NBC or CBS will change their business models.
Apple may be caving to a couple of networks, but the option to stream purchased video could also become another hook for the company's upcoming iCloud service, which makes content available across many Apple devices.