Is Rupert Murdoch kingmaker for Apple's 99-cent TV plan?

Apple’s TV plans continue to split the broadcast industry, at least in the US where any such service is most likely to appear first.

News from industry insiders show Apple in an increasingly isolated place with its plan, with Disney (on which Apple CEO Steve Jobs sits on the board) ready to roll withh 99-cent show rentals. All the other networks aren’t convinced at the plans, leaving just one global multimedia firm in position as kingmaker for the iTunes initiative.

Apple CEO Steve Jobs is dealing with overtures by mighty media magnate, Rupert Murdoch, in whose hands the fate of the plan could sit.

“For several weeks Hollywood has been wrangling over Apple’s push to offer rentals of TV show episodes for 99 cents. Many in the entertainment industry fear that the low price could break the economic model that supports the high cost of producing TV shows,” Chicago Tribune explains.

NBC Universal, CBS and Time Warner are opposing Apple’s 99-cent TV show rental plan. Walt Disney is saying yes leaving News Corp. in pivotal position.

Internally at the Murdoch-owned company execs are divided, the report says citing insider sources. Broadcast pros are concerned the deals could eat into DVD sales and a la carte downloads.

Total sales of digital TV program downloads, of which Apple accounts for roughly two-thirds, will reach $395 million this year, according to Screen Digest.

Murdoch however is prepared to join in Apple’s six month price trial because he hopes to parlay his assent into other positive moves for other arms of his media empire, specicially newspapers on iPads.

Murdoch believes the iPad will be the saviour of print media.

“Apple has shown in the past that they can alter consumer behavior by dropping the consideration below a dollar,” said Aram Sinnreich, an expert in digital media who teaches at Rutgers University. “They’ve done it twice, with music and applications.”

Media infustry execs are scared that lower priced TV show sales will impact DVD sales — I’d observe that as shows are already floating around online, it is in the interests of broadcasters to find a spot at which customers are happy to purchase shows.

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