Apple signs on HBO for iTunes Store, giving in to variable pricing

As rumored, Apple has forged a deal with HBO to make available for download the channel's content, including episodes of "Sex and the City," "The Sopranos" and critically acclaimed crime drama "The Wire."

The new offering is a big step forward for the video portion of Apple's iTunes Store, which has been growing but has seen fairly slow adoption for sales of TV shows and movies. HBO holds the rights to some of television's biggest series', and its customers are already accustomed to paying extra for its programming.

But in order to convince HBO to jump on the iTunes and iPod bandwagon, Apple was forced to make a concession: some HBO episodes will be priced higher than others.

Apple has long been a proponent of simplicity for consumers and pioneered the unified 99-cent model for music downloads, no matter how new or popular they are. However, the company holds far less sway in Hollywood, and had no choice to change its approach in order to sign big name partners. Its movie download prices already vary depending how new the titles are.

Although "Sex and the City," "The Wire" and "Flight of the Conchords" will run the standard $1.99 USD per episode, "The Sopranos," "Deadwood" and "Rome" will cost $2.99 USD. Only "Sex and the City" will have its full catalog available for download as a promotion for the upcoming movie; the others only have their first season offered, except "The Sopranos," which has its first and final season up for download.

Full seasons can be purchased together with a single click, but the savings is minimal.

Apple says the iTunes Store now offers a total of over 800 shows containing 20,000 episodes.

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