Murdoch could have casting vote on 99c TV shows

Apple's future in the TV show rental business could be in the hands of Australian-born media mogul Rupert Murdoch.

The rumour mill has it that Apple executives are crawling all over Tinsel Town trying to cut deals with TV production companies and networks in order to secure some cheap content for the release of the Cupertino company's oft-predicted iTV gadget.

The notoriously secretive company is remaining tight-lipped about the $99 device which those in the know reckon will be based on cloud technology rather than relying on masses of local storage, but a successful launch will require the equivalent of several killer apps. In other words, if you can't watch House and Dexter and The Big Bang Theory or whatever it is the kids are watching this week, then it's doomed to failure.

The Los Angeles Times reckons that many of the industry's big hitters, including NBC, CBS and Disney, have turned down Apple's overtures, preferring to stick to tried and tested (but ultimately outmoded) models of delivery.

The board of News Corporation, the parent company of the USA's Fox network, is, however prevaricating about the decision. Rupert Murdoch, the global media outfit's omnipotent hegemon, on the other had, reckons getting into bed with Steve Jobs and his gang is a great idea.

And as Murdoch has a healthy smattering of his own progeny installed as members of the News Corporation board, what Daddy says generally goes.

If Fox and all of its sibling companies under the NC umbrella do come down on the side of Apple and its ingress into telly land, it won't be long before all of the others step into line.

After all, if Apple can do for TV what it has done for music (the company's iTunes store is responsible for more music sales than any other) the likes of CBS and Disney would be foolish not to jump on the gravy train at the first possible stop.

Single episodes of lucrative shows like the irritatingly upbeat Glee and Tim Roth gurnfest Lie to Me already sell for $3.99 on iTunes, but Apple reckons a rental model will bring in more cash, and it might have a point.

People who want to revisit their favourite shows over and over are more likely to 'buy the box set', whether that be in digital download of physical disc form, but casual viewers who have perhaps missed a single episode might find the four buck price tag a bit rich just to watch a telly programme once then bin it.

The dinosaurs of TV land are, of course, eyeing the bottom line of a $20 billion advertising business and panicking at the though of losing a captive audience tied to the couch and the TV set. But like the music industry before it, if the TV industry wants to continue to milk an increasingly mobile audience of its dwindling supplies of expendable income, it's going to have to have a bit of a rethink.