Apple Computer Inc.'s iTunes online music and video store on Wednesday launched a new service called Multi-Pass that lets users buy downloads of television shows on a monthly basis.
The venture is being launched by iTunes in partnership with Viacom Inc.'s Comedy Central Network, which is rolling out "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart" and "The Colbert Report" on the new service. Fans will be able to buy the next month's series of 16 new episodes via Multi-Pass for $9.99, or to pay $1.99 per episode.
Apple's vice-president of iTunes, Eddy Cue, said MultiPass is not a subscription service, even though customers would pay for it on a monthly basis.
"This is something that you can always own as a download," he said. That makes it different from other online music subscription services like Napster or Real Networks' Rhapsody, where consumers lose their music if they unsubscribe.
TV shows and other video have been available for sale on iTunes since late last year. Comedy Central announced a relationship with iTunes six weeks ago with shows including "South Park," "Drawn Together" and "Comedy Central Stand-Up."
Michele Ganeless, executive vice president at Comedy Central, said there would be no advertising on the service for the time being, similar to the network's DVD business.
Apple has so far resisted calls from media companies and competitors to adopt a monthly subscription fee favored by the likes of Napster and Real Networks Inc.'s Rhapsody, preferring an a la carte download model where music tracks cost 99 cents and videos $1.99.
Videos downloaded from the iTunes Music Store can be played back on a personal computer or an Apple iPod portable media player, among other devices. More than 8 million videos have been sold since it launched at the end of last year.
Shows including Walt Disney Co.'s "Desperate Housewives" and "Lost" were among the first to be made available on the service.