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Yes, But When Can I Download Manimal?

I'm not sure whether to be awed or underwhelmed. Apple's big announcements today (video-capable iPod and an iMac G5 with built-in videoconferencing camera, remote control, and media center capabilities) included the unveiling of video content on the increasingly inaccurately named iTunes Music Store.

Yes, you can now pay a ridiculous $2 each for Pixar short films and thousands of music videos. (Although "The Weapon of Choice" is awfully tempting -- my love for the dance stylings of Christopher Walken knows no rational bounds.)

More interestingly, you can pony up the same $2 for episodes of Lost (hooray), Desperate Housewives (boo), The Night Stalker (yawn), and two godawful-looking Disney Channel kids shows (retch) the day after each new installment airs. You can even pick up the entire first season of Lost for slightly less than the price of a DVD box set. It's kinda lame now -- copy-protected, sold in a 4x3 aspect ratio at rinky-dink standard TV resolution, and there's no way yet to burn any of these shows to DVD -- but this could be the tip of the iceberg.

Suppose Fox announces that it's cancelling Arrested Development. Now suppose that Apple and the show's producers put up a whole new season on iTunes for preorder, promising to crank out the episodes if enough folks pay up to see it. Say the same 2 million or so folks who watch Arrested each week sign up for a 22-episode season at $35 a pop. If Apple gets, oh, 25 percent of that, it still works out to roughly $2.3 million an episode for producers to crank out the further adventures of the Bluth clan. (A quick Google search suggests the show currently costs $1.5 million an episode to produce. Does anyone else hear cash registers?) If those episodes also air on TV, the ad revenue would kick in even more to the budget. And even more money would trickle in over months and years as new folks discovered the show and signed up to download the newly made episodes.

This could be big. This could be Veronica Mars never getting cancelled big. In my sad, sad little dreams, this could even be new episodes of Firefly or Farscape big.

That sound you hear is several thousand die-hard fans rushing to their keyboards, looking for someone, anyone to bombard with e-mails. Be afraid. Or excited. Or possibly both.


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