Pretty Sneaky Zucker!I’ve always been slighted baffled by NBC/Universal’s attitude toward iTunes. Why in the world would they suddenly pull all of their video products when, by many accounts, iTunes was singularly responsible for saving some of NBC’s most popular shows? At the time, many believed this was just a power play to convince Apple to allow studios more flexible pricing, but as I read John Gruber’s mention of Hulu, NBC/Universal’s advertising supported online video service, I realized there might be more to it than that. It reminded me of something I heard while catching up on NPR podcasts this weekend.

As reported by Kim Masters on Morning Edition (which you can hear in the Feb. 10th Pop Culture podcast), one of the main concessions that the writers made on their new contract with the networks is that while they do now get a percentage of digital content that is paid for by the consumer (such as TV shows from iTunes), they only get a fixed sum for digital content that is advertising supported. So the more popular a show is on iTunes, the more money the networks have to pay the writers. But with Hulu, the writers get a small lump payment at the very beginning and no more, regardless of how much money the studio makes from it.

It’s almost enough to make Jeff Zucker seem clever.