Cupertino (CA) - Following several content deals that significantly expanded the iTunes movie and TV catalog, Apple said it is now offering popular television shows from all four major networks in HD. The company accelerates its efforts to move Tunes Store video content to HD to push its broader living room initiative centered around its Apple TV set-top box.
Apple announced earlier today that its iTunes Store now offers TV episodes and primetime television shows in high definition format coming from all four of the major networks - ABC, CBS, FOX and NBC. The shows now available in HD include Grey's Anatomy, Lost, CSI, CSI: Miami, Bones, Prison Break, Heroes and The Office. Apple said 200 million videos have been sold through iTunes so far.
The announcement comes on the heels of previous deals that the company cut in Hollywood, significantly expanding iTunes Store catalogue of HD movies purchases and rentals. Apparently, Apple is now focused on moving as much content as possible to HD, which is an overall easier sales pitch than standard programming. Industry watchers have been warning the company that the lack of compelling programming in HD format essentially eliminates the benefits of its home entertainment ecosystem based on the Apple TV set-top box.
Apple TV has been described by Apple CEO Steve Jobs as a "hobby project," but analysts think it could grow into the fourth leg of the company's business, although not before Apple expands HD availability on iTunes and make Apple TV in fact TV. The company started offering HD programming on iTunes last month and already has sold 1 million TV shows in HD format, priced at $2.99 (standard definition: $1.99). iTunes now offers more than 8 million songs, 30,000 TV episodes and over 2500 movies, including 600.
Still, that may not be enough to pave Apple’s way into living rooms in a big way. The company's recent HD move has been long overdue and the competition isn’t sleeping: Microsoft gave Apple TV a run for the money when it added Netflix movie streaming for Netflix Unlimited and Xbox Live Gold subscribers. Apple can’t match the offer yet, but clearly needs to come up with a solution to provide a competitive rental model.