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NBC’s Zucker to Apple: “Wahhhhhh”

There’s so many things wrong with NBC CEO Jeff Zucker’s comments on Apple and video that it’s almost impossible to know where to begin. Here’s a few choice bits.

“Variety reports today that NBC’s CEO let loose on Apple in a breakfast interview with The New Yorker’s Ken Auletta at Syracuse University. Zucker claims that NBC — Apple’s single largest video partner — made only $15 million in iTunes sales in the past year. That’s about 1/3 of what outsiders had estimated and far less than the entertainment giant is used to pulling in from hit properties like The Office and 30 Rock.”

Which would, of course, be a very valid point were it not for the fact that there’s no evidence that iTunes sales are anything other than incremental – that is, they are in addition to other sales (network, DVD) rather than replacing them. In fact, of course, every dollar of that $15 million is a dollar which NBC would have been very unlikely to make anywhere else.

“Apple sold millions of dollars worth of hardware off the back of our content and made a lot of money,” Zucker said. “They did not want to share in what they were making off the hardware or allow us to adjust pricing.”

Which is, of course, also a great argument for NBC to get a share from every TV sold, but we’ll ignore that for a second. In fact, of course, the unpalatable (for Zucker) truth is that almost no one is buying an iPod to play NBC content. The number of people who’ve gone into an Apple Store and gone “wow, I must buy that sexy looking iPod touch so I can watch The Office on it” is probably not enough to show up as a rounding error on Steve Jobs’ expenses claims. Jobs probably spends more on New Balance trainers every year than his company has made from iPod sales off the back of NBC content.

“We know that Apple has destroyed the music business – in terms of pricing – and if we don’t take control, they’ll do the same thing on the video side.”

Note that important caveat – “in terms of pricing”. The fact the record companies are selling millions of songs per year, on which they get decent profit margins doesn’t seem to appeal to Zucker.

Someone should lock Zucker up in a room, show him a dozen BitTorrent sites, and point out to him that his company’s biggest competitor isn’t called Apple: it’s spelt “F-R-E-E”.

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