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• Apple Tunes has introduced a new feature on its iTunes website that takes the economic model in a new direction – subscriptions.

The digital music and video service is working with Viacom’s Comedy Central to offer both The Daily Show with Jon Stewart and The Colbert Report either for $1.99 per episode, or $9.99 for a 16-episode multi-pass (which essentially gives viewers a month’s worth of episodes since the series each have four fresh episodes a week). If acquired on a subscription basis, the episodes download automatically as soon as they become available after broadcast.

Apple’s iTunes already offers numerous other television programs both for video download (“Lost”,” “Desperate Housewives”) and for audio download (“Meet The Press”). But this is the first time that iTunes has essentially given consumers the opportunity to pay in advance for future, unaired episodes.

• There are reports in both the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal this morning that is negotiating with three different Hollywood studios to create an online portal that will allow consumers to download both movies and television programs.

If these negotiations are successfully concluded, it will mark two important business model changes for Amazon. First, it will put the online retailer into the business of allowing people to achieve immediate media gratification – instead of ordering products online and waiting for them to be delivered, Amazon will be getting into the iTunes arena.

Second, Amazon’s service actually would leapfrog the iTunes offering, at least as it exists today, but getting into the movie downloads business. While music and television downloads have become commonplace, instant movie downloads have remained an elusive goal for media companies.
KC's View:
What does this have to do with day-to-day retailing concerns?

We believe that these changes reflect a broader change in how consumers perceive the rules of acquisition; it raises the bar, changes their expectations. And retailers in virtually every venue need to pay attention to these trends to figure out how to take advantage of them…or, at the very least, how to appeal to the same shoppers who are changing their consumption and acquisition habits in other arenas.