NBCU, Amazon in Content Deal

NEW YORK Just days after it went public in announcing its pending split with Apple, NBC Universal unveiled a new partnership with Amazon.com to sell a variety of its prime-time series via the company’s fledgling Unbox video download service.

Last week, NBCU said it would not renew its contract with Apple, through which it sell episodes of many of its networks’ top shows via the iTunes Music Store. That deal, which runs through the end of this year, is said to have been deemed less than satisfactory by NBCU executives, since Apple has remained rigid on its pricing structure for TV series.

With Amazon.com, NBC appears to be gaining the flexibility it desires. The company will begin selling both individual episodes and full seasons of series such as Heroes, 30 Rock and The Office, using a variety of pricing scenarios, starting on Sept. 10.

“This further expands our longstanding relationship to bring a robust content offering to the marketplace in a variety of ways that will benefit the consumer and, at the same time, protects our content,” said Jean-Briac Perrette, president, NBCU digital distribution. In addition, NBC will use Unbox as a promotional platform for its new fall lineup.

As it gains flexibility in working with Amazon over Apple, NBCU may be sacrificing scale in the short term. While Unbox is just gaining traction among consumers, iTunes reached over 32 million U.S. Web users in June, according to Nielsen//NetRatings. Of course, it is still possible that NBCU and Apple may reach a new agreement to sell the company’s shows in 2008.