How much is a TV show worth?

As I was playing with various ways of watching TV this week, I came across a number of different pricing models:

  • Live broadcast TV – Free with lots of commericals.
  • Broadcast TV on DVR – Free with lots of skippable commercials. These shows can be saved indefinitley.
  • Network Web sites – Free with a few, nonskippable commercials. (I did use the commercial breaks to check email and use the bathroom.) Must be online to watch.
  • iTunes download – $1.99 per show. Save indefinitely.
  • Google Video download – Price varies. Save indefinitely.
  • On Demand – In my market, Comcast offers some NBC and CBS shows On Demand. CBS shows, including some in HD, are free. NBC shows cost 99 cents. It’s unclear from the Comcast interface how long you can “keep” TV shows, but most movies can be watched for up to 24 hours. The show selection for both networks isn’t as wide as in the other forms.

Add to all this the ability to buy collections of shows on DVD a few months later.

For my money, broadcast on DVR is the best bet, primarily because I want to watch an HDTV quality picture on my big screen TV. iTunes is the least likely because of its higher pricing. In most cases, saving a TV show indefinitely isn’t something I need to do, so there’s no reason to pay the premium. But I can see using each method in different circumstances.

The clear loser is the scheduled programming model.  I watch what I want, when I when want.


About Rakesh Agrawal

Rakesh Agrawal is Senior Director of product at Amazon (Audible). Previously, he launched local and mobile products for Microsoft and AOL. He tweets at @rakeshlobster.
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