NEW YORK – Apple Computer Inc.'s (AAPL) iTunes music and video store on Wednesday took its first step toward a monthly subscription model with a new service called Multi-Pass that lets users buy TV shows on a monthly basis.
The service is being launched by iTunes in partnership with Viacom Inc.'s (VIA) Comedy Central cable network, which is rolling out "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart" and "The Colbert Report" on the 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. Four episodes air each week and viewers can download each episode after it's been broadcast.
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 (RNWK) 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 (DIS) "Desperate Housewives" and "Lost" were among the first to be made available on the service.