Sunday, April 23, 2006


SNL Half Gets Online Video

Saturday Night Live is now offering some of their content on the iTunes Store. This is good news; now current sketches, like Lazy Sunday, can be had, legally, online, and everyone who made the sketch gets paid (including actors, I think). The bad news is what all six of the user reviews point out: it is all very, very expensive.

Lazy Sunday, a 2 minute 31 second sketch, costs $1.99. For comparison, Sleeper Cell episodes run between about 50 and 59 minutes and cost $1.99. I believe these SNL sketches are therefore currently the among the most expensive downloadable video on Earth.

There may be all sorts of contractual reasons for this high price, but it seems they may also be trying to price us all into watching the show live. I think they may have missed the point of downloadable shows a little. People download TV shows likely because they don't want to, or can't, watch them live (and so they can watch them later, anywhere they want to).

Since putting shows online costs NBC/Universal next to nothing (hard drive space and a database entry), they are missing out on profits by pricing them this way. NBC made six million dollars profit from the online sale of their shows in the first couple months; and since the shows are produced regardless of the online distribution, the profit from online sales is almost free money.

If they sort out the contracts and improve the pricing everyone can win: NBC/Universal makes more money (and doesn't have to worry as much about falling ratings), the audience gets to see a show they like, when and where they choose (without breaking the law), and the artists who make the show would get some sort of residuals.

I'd be more likely to send a friend a legal version of sketch as a gift, if it were cheaper (and actually could be sent as a gift, like many, many other items on the iTunes store). I think 25 million other TV viewers may feel the same way. Part four of the Small Format and Online Video series of posts:
  1. Confusion Over Small Format Video
  2. Online Video May Affect Production, Distribution and Our Income
  3. TV to Become Small Format Online Video More and More
  4. SNL Half Gets Online Video
  5. Warner Bros. Domestic TV Embraces Small Format/Online Video


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