Early Tuesday morning, somebody at Apple’s iTunes Store flicked a switch and six of HBO’s most popular series became available for download for prices ranging from $1.99 to $2.99 per episode. They are:
- Sex and the City: $1.99 per episode
- The Wire: $1.99
- Deadwood: $2.99
- Flight of the Conchords: $1.99
- Rome: $2.99
- The Sopranos: $2.99
For HBO, which is making individual episodes available for the first time, it’s a chance to expand viewership beyond its 30 million cable TV subscribers to Apple’s broader audience of 50 million registered iTunes users.
For Apple, it’s a strong signal that Steve Jobs has backed away from his stubborn insistence on flat-rate pricing — $1.99 for TV episodes, $.99 for songs — and is ready start a new round of deal making in Hollywood.
On May 1, Apple announced an agreement with Warner Brothers, 20th Century Fox (NWS), Walt Disney
and others to make movies available for iTunes download the same day they are released on DVD at two price points: $14.99 for new releases and $9.99 for older films. (see Apple’s new Hollywood deal)
Could a rapprochement with NBC — which pulled its series off iTunes last December in a dispute over flat rate pricing (see here) — be far behind? The fact that NBC (GE) started streaming free episodes of two of its most popular shows, The Office and 30 Rock, to iPhones last week seems like a promising sign.
[UPDATE: Apple posted a press release this morning. HBO is “excited.” Apple is “thrilled.”]