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ITunes Offers ‘The Daily Show’

Times Staff Writer

When it comes to comedian Jon Stewart, Apple Computer Inc. is betting that one download won’t be enough.

On Wednesday, Apple’s iTunes Music Store began offering downloads of Comedy Central’s popular satiric newscast, “The Daily Show With Jon Stewart,” and its comedic spinoff, “The Colbert Report.”

But instead of offering the shows a la carte, as it does with other new TV programs, Apple unveiled Multi-Pass -- a way to buy a month’s worth of shows for $9.99, nearly $22 less than the price of 16 episodes at $1.99 apiece. Four shows air every week and each becomes available after it airs.

Apple and Viacom Inc.'s Comedy Central Network executives described the new monthly pricing as a way to simplify the purchasing process -- and ensure more consistent revenue.

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“There are a lot of customers who love ‘The Daily Show’ and want to buy it, but they’re not going to remember to come every single day and click ‘buy,’ ” said Eddy Cue, Apple’s vice president of iTunes.

Analysts predicted that the Cupertino, Calif.-based company’s new pricing would appeal to television studios.

“The studios just want the predictability of a subscription. To them, it’s more of an annuity stream,” said Shaw Wu, an analyst with American Technology Research in San Francisco. “With Apple, as we all know, it’s more about selling more hardware -- more iPods, more Macs.”

Chief Executive Steve Jobs has long criticized the subscription model used by rivals such as Napster Inc. and Real Networks Inc.'s Rhapsody, which charge customers a flat monthly fee for access to music. But Multi-Pass is less a subscription plan than a packaging strategy, Cue said.

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“This is just a much better way to buy content that you’re going to own and keep forever,” he said.

Internet downloads are far less profitable to the studios than broadcast television. But as DVD sales plateau and commercial-skipping technologies threaten traditional ad revenue, the Apple store represents a new, incremental income stream.

It also provides a legal way for customers to get popular shows that also are available through unlicensed channels, such as peer-to-peer networks.

“It is for us part of our strategy of ubiquity -- of being everywhere the viewers are,” said Michele Ganeless, Comedy Central’s executive vice president. “If they’re not at home in front of their TV, we want them to get it as quickly as possible.”

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