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CBS to offer some TV shows on iTunes for a dollar

CBS will soon begin selling episodes of some television shows for $1 per episode on Apple’s iTunes Store, according to both “The Financial Times” and “The New York Times.”

Leslie Moonves, the CEO of CBS, told analysts last week that “certain shows” would be offered at the $1 price point, but he didn’t name the shows. Typically, Apple sells SD TV show episodes for $2 each.

Apple has been working with the television networks to establish lower prices for programming in time for the April launch of its new iPad tablet computer. CBS appears to be following in the footsteps of PBS, which already sells episodes of kids’ shows like “Arthur” for $1 in iTunes. NBC also sells some $1 shows, but those are custom Olympic event recaps.

It’s too soon to say whether the experiment will be successful. Apple’s proposals to lower TV show prices across the board are being met by skepticism from the major networks. The networks are equally wary of harming their far more lucrative deals with affiliates and cable distributors, who may feel threatened by online storefronts like Apple’s and those operated by Amazon, Microsoft and Sony.

However, the networks don’t want to ignore the 125 million customers with credit cards who have iTunes accounts, either. “We’re willing to try anything, but the key word is ‘try,’” a TV network executive told the “New York Times.” The executive requested anonymity because his company had declined to comment publicly on talks with Apple.

With the iTunes pricing debate, the television industry is facing the same question that music labels and print publishers are: How much is their content worth in a digital world?

So far, consumers have downloaded nearly 10 billion songs and about 375 million TV episodes at the higher prices. Even at double the price, analysts say the TV revenue from iTunes has been marginal for producers and distributors.