LOS ANGELES – Apple Inc.’s iTunes store may have revolutionized the music business, but its recent push to let people rent TV shows for 99 cents won’t amount to a game changer for how people watch TV.

The idea to offer episodes of hit shows for rental a day after their broadcast may be great for people with busy lifestyles, and it could help Apple sell more iPhones and iPads, but only a few of the major media companies support the plan.

That’s because they already make money from TV shows in a number of ways, and compared with those, the planned price of 99 cents is seen as a big cut, according to some people familiar with Apple’s proposal.

Media companies already sell episodes on iTunes, but currently for $1.99 or $2.99, and sometimes more than a day after the broadcast. Because most people watch such shows just once, the cheaper rental model might end up cutting into revenue, rather than boosting it.

Also, media companies sell advertising, and coming out of the recession, prices have been going up for those 30-second commercial spots on TV. Allowing people to avoid those ads by paying 99 cents the next day doesn’t make sense if it means a smaller audience and smaller advertising revenue on the day of the broadcast.

Still, The Walt Disney Co.’s ABC and News Corp.’s Fox network are nearing a deal on such a rental plan, according to several people familiar with Apple’s proposal. That means shows such as “Modern Family” or “Glee” could soon be available the day after they air for less than the cost of buying a permanent download. Rentals would typically be available for 48 hours after the purchase.

The people familiar with the discussions spoke on condition of anonymity because no deal had been finalized. If a deal is cut soon, Apple could announce it at a media event next Wednesday, though music appears to be the focus of that.

Offering a rental model would expand options for viewers. It’s now possible to watch many of the shows for free — with ads — on Hulu and the sites of broadcasters. But those shows are streamed and require an Internet connection while viewing. A rental model would give people the ability to download files to take with them on planes or other places; the files would automatically expire after the 48 hours.

Those who buy shows for children, or who tend to watch shows multiple times, would likely continue to buy them in various ways.

And there are still plenty of ways to catch shows. You can check the channel’s websites or simply record them on DVRs. Or, like the old days, you can just sit on your couch and watch them when they come on.


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