Our old friend Dave pointed us to a Newsday article discussing how iTunes essentially took NBC's The Office off the chopping block, where it was headed last year after disappointing Nielsen ratings, and catapulted it to "the Seinfeld of iTunes." If you're not a Seinfeld fan that might be meaningless to you, but trust me when I say It's the BEST, Jerry! The BEST!* Only recently did The Office cede the top spot to Lost as the single most downloaded program weekly, not to mention nabbing an Emmy (well-deserved, IMO) for Best Comedy.
Angela Bromstead, president of NBC Universal, which owns and produces The Office had this to say: "I'm not sure that we'd still have the show on the air." The network had only ordered so many episodes, but when it went on iTunes and really started taking off, that gave us another way to see the true potential other than just Nielsen. It just kind of happened at a great time." Of course Nielsen is getting hip to the power of iTunes + iPod itself these days.
Newer shows like 30 Rock and Jericho are also expected to be a big iTunes sellers when/if they hit the iTS, despite their currently poor Nielsen showings and may save their respective fates as well.
The article goes on to talk about what doesn't sell well on iTunes. "Nielsen hits such as CSI: Miami or NCIS are no-shows in the top 50. The Simpsons? Nada (which is not on iTunes at all... even though Prison Break is a stalwart). What does any of this mean? Who knows - except, perhaps that serials and guy-oriented shows are the biggest beneficiaries of the iTunes effect."
Personally I think iTunes is only part of this revolution. The networks themselves are getting smarter about putting their shows online, on their own websites, which may not be as convenient or trendy as iTunes, but it's certainly a start. With all the timeshifting and placeshifting going on these days anyway, Prime Time Television as we have known it for many years is going away sooner rather than later. iTunes is really only the beginning of the revolution. It's not the be all and end all.
*It's purely coincidence that I had not one, but two opportunities to reference Seinfeld today. Life is good.