See? It's what plenty of folks have been saying all along... at least when it comes to entertainment, the viewer does actually know what they want.
I just downloaded the entire first season of The State, the hysterical sketch comedy show that originally aired on MTV in the early nineties. Browsing through the iTunes TV Show listings, I almost swallowed my teeth when I saw the show offered, and immediately spent the $10 to download the first season. I just finished watching the first three episodes from my iPod plugged into my TV.
Just as the networks have discovered that canceled shows have another life as DVD compilations, they're starting to see the market for these shows on iTunes. Big surprise. What they're still missing is that canceling these shows in the first place is a bad idea (see Arrested Development).
It's stunning to me that perusing the offerings in the iTunes store will show current television shows side-by-side with a 12-year-old series. When The State was originally broadcast, the Internet was still the playground of academia, and a 33.6 modem link was the only way to connect from anywhere else. Of course, Beavis and Butthead is also available now as well. The difference is that The State hasn't been broadcast in any form whatsoever in at least a decade.
According to MTV, offering this show on iTunes is a way to test the market for older material. My prediction is that you'll suddenly see much more older content up on iTunes. This doesn't necessarily mean it's any good, but the costs of offering it in this format are nearly nothing -- no DVDs to press, no cases to manufacture -- simply a one-time remastering of the material. What a shocking idea.
The only thing that can move this market is money. Suing their own customers hasn't gotten the RIAA and MPAA anywhere, but maybe they're starting to come around now. Too bad that they've already blown it. Just as professional-quality home studios are a reality, high-quality small budget film productions are a reality (see Primer), and the distribution methods are becoming just as cheap as well. If we continue to see painfully bad major-label movies, television shows, and music pushed down our throats, the consumer will go elsewhere -- no matter where that might be. Based on the popularity of videoblogging, if Apple were to start offering a platform for paid distribution of independent television shows and movies, priced far below the cost of buying the Hollywood offerings, I bet they'd create a whole new market.
On the music side of things though, I will not buy music from iTunes. If I can't play it on the format I want, it's worth nothing to me. My Sonos system can't play iTunes files, and that's what runs all the music in the house. Immediate hard stop. Since there are very few competing video devices on the market today, the video side is different, for now. Then again, the iTV is ready for takeoff, and you can bet I'll be on that flight.