Apple pulls NBC shows from iTunes lineup

NbcOn their website today Apple announced that they will not carry the next season of NBC television shows on their iTunes store. NBC shows made up 30% of iTunes TV show sales. Although NBC’s contract with Apple officially ends in December, Apple decided to pull the shows now rather than take them out of the store mid-season.

The move follows NBC’s decision to not renew its agreement with iTunes after Apple declined to pay more than double the wholesale price for each NBC TV episode, which would have resulted in the retail price to consumers increasing to $4.99 per episode from the current $1.99.

As noted by TechCrunch, the decision may have had something to do with NBC’s controlling stake in the newly-named Hulu, a YouTube-competitor offering professional video (examples found on the Hulu placeholder page include popular shows such as Bones and Family Guy). Hulu, slated to launch in October through portals such as MSN and Yahoo, is a joint-venture between NBC and News Corp that earlier this month received $100 million from Providence Equity Partners out of Rhode Island. In return, Hulu gave up 10% of the company, meaning it was valuated at a staggering $1 billion. As far as NBC being scared of Apple, Michael Arrington weighs in:

The last thing the TV networks want to see is Apple having the kind of control over TV content that they do with music - 76% of online music sales come from iTunes.

Is this a good decision by NBC? It remains to be seen whether the revenue from Hulu’s ad-based model will rival what the shows generated through iTunes. If NBC were to continue to distribute their television lineup through the iTunes store that would mean that at Hulu’s launch their shows would be available via three different delivery methods. Surely some cannibalization would occur here, but to what extent? If Apple were to release statistics on how many iTunes users sync television shows they purchase to iPods, it would be an indicator of how much they value the portability feature that only iTunes delivers. These customers would most likely continue to watch the show on television with friends and family, and would likely check it out on Hulu as well. In my opinion, NBC shouldn’t cut the iTunes contract until they roll out their own pay-to-download delivery system.

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Cubic Telecom to provide global mobile service

CubicCubic Telecom announced via a press release yesterday that they will be providing world-wide low-cost telephone service for mobile phones, claiming to be “the world’s first truly global mobile service provider“:

Cubic Telecom’s service aims to eliminate the high cost of international roaming charges by focusing on introducing simple, high-quality telecommunications services. Their breakthrough technology intelligently uses existing mobile phone network resources to drive down costs. Its core target market is aggrieved customers across the globe who don’t understand why they can’t get value for money when making international calls and roaming. Cubic is working towards free speech.

At at time when almost all of the buzz surrounding voice communication startups has to do with VoIP, Cubic is attempting to set themselves apart from the crowd. Instead of relying on technology existing outside of traditional mobile networks (such as Skype), they are taking a shot at changing the mobile landscape from the inside out by cutting deals with service providers allowing them to offer reduced prices on talk time worldwide using existing telecommunications networks. As Cubic’s CEO Pat Phelan explains, “When most people think about driving down the cost of telephone calls, they think of calling from computer-to-computer. We don’t. We deliver simple, high quality, high value telephone services direct to the devices that people like to use - their mobile phones.�?

Skype-1This approach comes at an interesting time as Skype, one of the leading VoIP providers, recently found itself in the news earlier this month after a complete service outage left its 220 million users without service for 24 hours. eBay, which owns Skype, took a 2.58% hit on the day of the outage, erasing over $1 billion from the company’s market cap. Phelan was quick to discuss the outage on his blog, writing that the Skype downtime “made absolutely no difference in the Cubic world as we talk on phones not on computers.�? While Skype has since fixed the glitch that caused the downtime (ars technica: “Skype itself says that it was an algorithm error with their own service�?), the fact that it occurred brings to light possible issues with using a VoIP service as your primary mode of communication.

Cubic Telecom recently raised $6.8 million US from private backers, and offers service to over 160 different countries. The company was founded by Pat Phelan in 2005 and is headquartered in Ireland, with additional offices in Vermont, Canada. Pat Phelan’s past projects include Yak4Ever and Roam4Free.


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TheFind acquires Glimpse.com

GlimpseA recent press release announces that Glimpse, a specialty shopping search site focused on female fashion launched in April of this year, was just acquired by another startup, TheFind.com, for an unspecificed amount of money.

TheFind is a comparison shopping search engine that scours 190 million products from over 500,000 stores. In contrast with other broad-category shopping sites, TheFind rates products by user popularity instead of selling top search result spots to merchants.

A message from Frank Han, Glimpse’s founder, announces that the acquisition will allow Glimpse to offer a wider selection of brands on their website, including Juicy Couture, Hollister, Burberry, Ann Taylor, Abercrombie & Fitch, and J. Crew. In addition, a new search feature labeled MyFinds will be implemented that will purportedly streamline the site’s search process.

According to TechCrunch, Glimpse sold for a rumored price of under $100,000. Glimpse.com’s traffic has not been noteworthy since their launch. Although the amount Glimpse was initially funded for (by Greylock Partners and Redpoint Ventures) remains undisclosed, its safe to say that if the rumoured price is anywhere near accurate the investors involved decided to cut their losses on this one.

Based in Mountain View, TheFind launched last fall and recently was the recepient of additional funding from Bain Capital, Redpoint Ventures and Lightspeed Ventures to the tune of $15 million.

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