NBC hands Apple its walking papers

Money makes people crazy. When it comes to media conglomerates, the lust is insatiable. NBC Universal plans to pull its television catalog off iTunes by the end of the year. The marriage, initially, was lovestruck, with NBC crediting iTunes sales for boosting ratings of "The Office." But now, the grounds for divorce ostensibly include disagreements over piracy controls and pricing; Apple now says NBC wanted to charge $4.99 an episode. Some may speculate, rather, that the decision is fueled by NBC's desire to stock its own online-video site, Hulu, with shows. But the real reason for NBC's withdrawal is probably much less sinister.

NBC executives have most likely realized that the company can make more money off advertising than it can through selling content. And with shows popping up on file-sharing networks like BitTorrent, making shows free rather than charging for them makes more and more sense. While sales of television-series DVDs are a nice sideline business, they're nothing compared to what media companies make off of advertising. And the same is likely to prove true of TV-show downloads, too. Between making a pittance from consumers, on terms dictated by Apple, and making a bundle off of advertisers, NBC's choice is obvious.