Following iTunes’ development has been an interesting experience. We’re moving toward a world in which physical packages of music is a thing of a past; in the meantime we’re stuck with a middling service.

My complaint goes something like this:

My wife recorded Grey’s Anatomy; when she was watching her tape the next day, she was surprised to find advertisements telling her the story from her episode was being continued in a crossover Private Practice on a different channel. Oops.

So I went on iTunes and bought her the episode she missed. $3.50 is pretty steep for a 40 minute TV show but that’s the price you pay for the convenience. After enjoying the program, my wife decided she wanted to see the rest of the season - so I bought that for her too.

When you buy a season of TV, iTunes warns you that any previously purchased episode will be downloaded again - essentially you’d be paying for it again. I can handle that - it makes sense that an item would be sold individually and part as a collection.

Two problems (both stemming from me not digging deep enough into the literature, but also totally unreasonable):

  1. When I was billed for the season, I was billed individually for every episode, at the full $3.50 rate. So there was no reason to double-bill me for the episode I’d already purchased since the billing wasn’t based on a ‘full season’ - why is the system unable to correlate previous purchases and prevent the double-purchase?

  2. I thought I was buying a whole season of the show - in fact I only bought the episodes that had already been released. A “Season Pass” (pay for the season and new episodes download as they become available) is something completely different… it would have been nice to have been informed of the difference.

$42 is a lot of money to pay for 11 episodes of TV. I don’t think I’ll be dropping a lot of money into iTunes when I can pay half that amount for a full season on DVD - not to mention get the benefits of hard copy, physical media.

My verdict: iTunes is an interesting model and was a fun experiment for us, but not at all cost effective. Bandwidth can be expensive, but the cost of distributing digital media is essentially $0. I would have thought TV episodes could be sold for less than $1 and still make a healthy profit for the content creators (no manufacturing costs, no distribution, no retail partners – Apple takes a cut and the rest is pure profit). What can I say, I was the one who got suckered into paying double the price for half the product.