SAN JOSE, Calif. - NBC Universal has approved a deal with Apple Computer Inc. to become the latest network to sell television shows a la carte on Apple's online iTunes store, the companies said Tuesday.
More than 300 episodes from about a dozen prime time, cable, late-night and classic TV shows are now available for $1.99 apiece. The programming spans from the 1950s to the present, including shows from "Alfred Hitchcock Presents," "Dragnet," USA Network's "Monk," the Sci-Fi Channel's "Battlestar Galactica," and NBC's hit series "Law & Order." Sketches from "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno" and "Late Night with Conan O'Brien" are also for sale.
Apple unleashed a dramatically different way of distributing television programs when it debuted videos for sale on its iTunes Music Store on Oct. 20 with Walt Disney Co.'s ABC as its first network partner. Since then, customers have downloaded more than three million videos, which they can watch on their computers or transfer to an iPod portable player.
The latest deal expands Apple's TV catalog from five shows to 16 shows.
Terms of the deal were not disclosed.
For NBC, the move is part of its growing digital distribution strategy to be "as ubiquitous as possible," Jeff Zucker, president of General Electric Co.'s NBC Universal Television Group, said in a phone interview. The network recently signed a deal to begin selling replays of its most popular shows on an on-demand basis through satellite TV provider DirecTV Group Inc., and last month announced it is collaborating with Sprint Nextel Corp. to make Leno's monologue and comic sketches available on mobile phones.
NBC had been in talks with Apple's chief executive Steve Jobs since the beginning of the year as Apple was developing its new video-playing iPod, Zucker said.
"Seeing how well it's been received by the consumer has given us a lot more comfort and confidence with it," Zucker said of the downloadable TV shows. "As long as our content is protected from piracy, then there will be no barriers."
"There's certainly more to come," he said.