Game of Thrones on iTunes Introduces New Pricing Tiers for TV Shows?

Game of Thrones on iTunes Introduces New Pricing Tiers for TV Shows?

Sean Bean of HBO’s hit “Game of Thrones”–today’s bone of contention!

Last week, Carly put up a very interesting post that referred to a post by the folks at The AV Club.  The AV Club post talked a lot about piracy and concluded that “Be Patient” was the best solution for one’s desire to pirate content in the face of the current gallimaufry of release and pricing variations and unpredictability for electronic content, but the discussion it spawned between Carly and myself was on a more proactive, “What the heck can big media companies do while their normal channel market share erodes but their online market share hasn’t caught up yet” level.

We used HBO’s “Game of Thrones” as an example in our discussion, partly because there’s a popular ‘toon out there right now that discusses it, but also because it’s a great example of the kind of high-quality, high-cost programming that a company like HBO can provide that is basically not available anywhere else.  Also, to me GoT is a great example of a poorly-used product; it has lain dormant (from an online standpoint) for nine months, unavailable on DVD or via iTunes, Netflix, Amazon, or anywhere else, while the excitement and related press about it has faded completely.  In my view, that’s an incredible waste.  (We talked about this in the comments section of Carly’s post.)

Interestingly, just today (“Download Tuesday” as I think of it, as that is the day new movies and apps are available on iTunes), the first season of GoT became available, and rather than the $2.99 (for HD) per episode that I have come to expect for TV shows over the last couple of years, but rather $3.99 per episode (but if you get the full season, it’s $10 less, which makes it $2.99/episode).  Carly’s immediate question to me, in light of our discussion from the other day, was, “Are you willing to pay that?”  In point of fact, I had already bought and was downloading 3 episodes!

Carly’s question to me the other day was, if I didn’t like what HBO was doing (waiting 9 months to watch GoT on iTunes), what did I think would work?  One answer that HBO seems to be experimenting with is “tiered pricing”.  For regular TV shows–“The Real Jersey Shore”, or “How I Met Your Mother”, or “Parks and Recreation”, or what have you–it’s $2.99/episode.  For premium content, i.e. content that comes from HBO or another premium channel–and more to the point, content that costs a lot more to create–you pay more.

And I for one am fine with that.  My preference would be for that premium content to be offered a lot sooner–maybe charging you $3.99 an episode with no discount for buying the full season, but you get to watch it only a few days or a week after the original broadcast–but I think this is worthy of experimenting.  I think that in this difficult intermediate stage, where stations like HBO are seeing their TV viewership decrease and their online viewership increase, but the revenues from the latter are not nearly making up the losses from the former, that this is a good time to experiment.  And in my view, this is a worthy attempt.

But what do you think?  Tell us below!

About the Author

Douglas Moran
Doug is a nerd from way back, falling for a Commodore PET at the age of 15, and never looking back. Riding the nerd wave, he got a Computer Science degree and entered the tech industry at a young age, deciding after a year and a half of front-line phone technical support that he should try something, *anything* else. He settled on technical writing, and has been cranking out documentation for companies like Unisys, SGI, Cisco, Juniper, and many others ever since. He is nothing short of ecstatic to be working for H-P from his home base in Austin.
  • Joshua Wolf

    HBO shows have always cost more.  True Blood on iTunes started at $2.99 for SD and HD wasn’t even available at the time.  So it comes as no surprise to me that GoT is 2.99/3.99.

  • Cassie

    I do wish that companies like HBO and Showtime offered an online only option. I’d willingly pay $30-40 a month to get my favorite shows online than pay double that for a bunch of shows I never watch with my local cable provider. Even if we pay more as online subscribers, it would be nice.