Prediction: 'Heroes' on iTunes ... for $2.99


The prospect of such NBC Universal-owned series as "Heroes" or "The Office" being sold on iTunes again might seem improbable after a pricing dispute caused the conglomerate to yank its content in December. But it will return, and for $1 more than it used to cost -- and that's just a taste of the changes iTunes will be forced to make next year.

NBC Uni wants higher price points and a percentage of the iPods Apple sells in part on the back of NBC Uni programming, as well as additional piracy protection.

The rationale: NBC Uni programming accounted for 30% of iTunes' video sales, but that generated just $15 million for the conglom. Meanwhile, video iPods continue to fly off the shelves.

NBC has improved its negotiation legerage by offering alternative platforms for its programming, from its own to such third parties as Amazon's Unbox and Hulu, its partnership with News Corp. No single solution has the clout of iTunes, but taken all together, there soon could be enough market share to cause Apple to look over its shoulder.

Given the massive hole in Apple's video offerings, it's only a matter of time before Steve Jobs and Jeff Zucker begin talking, and perhaps for more than just TV; Universal Pictures is an iTunes film holdout. These talks could portend entirely different business models for iTunes, including free, ad-supported programming and cheap rentals.