NBC chief digital officer George Kliavkoff has raised the prospect of an NBC return to the iTunes Store, claiming that the network would “love” to be back, though price and piracy concerns remain sticking points. Speaking in an on-stage interview at the Ad:Tech conference, Kliavkoff said, “If you look at studies about MP3 players, especially leading MP3 players and what portion of that content is pirated, and think about how that content gets on to that device, it has to go through a gatekeeping piece of software, which would be a convenient place to put some antipiracy measures,” obliquely referencing iTunes. He added, “One of the big issues for NBC is piracy. We are financially harmed every day by piracy. It results in us not being able to invest as much money in the next generation of film and TV products.” It remains unclear how Apple’s FairPlay DRM, which protects all iTunes Store-purchased content from piracy, falls short of the company’s needs.
Kliavkoff added that “[w]e’d love to be on iTunes. It has a great customer experience. We’d love to figure out a way to distribute our content on iTunes,” noting that discussions between the companies continue: “we have film distribution with iTunes so yes, we do talk to Apple.” However, Kliavkoff suggested that Apple has too much control over pricing for the iTunes Store, explaining how NBC Universal sets a wholesale price for content it offers to distributors. “They can mark up the price and make a profit or use it as a loss leader to get people in the door. It’s really difficult for us to work with any distribution partner who says ‘Here’s the wholesale price and the retail price,’ especially when the price doesn’t reflect the full value of the product.” Both NBC Universal CEO Jeff Zucker and Apple CEO Steve Jobs have previously made comments suggesting the two companies would eventually come to an agreement regarding NBC TV shows, which were pulled from the iTunes Store last December following a contract dispute.