Peter Kafka

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CBS: We’ll Cut iTunes Prices for Some Shows [UPDATE]

Steve Jobs’s effort to cut prices on TV shows sold on iTunes has found at least partial backing from CBS. CEO Les Moonves says the broadcaster will mark down the price on some of its shows from $1.99 to 99 cents.

“There are certain shows that will be sold on Apple for 99 cents,” Moonves said today, adding, however, that details have not been worked out.

It’s possible that Moonves doesn’t plan to make any significant concessions on pricing–CBS, like other networks, already offers some older shows, or new shows it wants to promote, at discount prices. But the context of Moonves’s comments, which came during the company’s earnings call today, indicated that he is planning on changing his pricing structure on more than a one-off basis.

UPDATE: That metaphorical throat-clearing you might be hearing right now is the sound of people who are familiar with Moonves’s thinking. Said people are telling me that while CBS is open to talks with Apple, etc., the company has no imminent plans to change pricing and that Moonves didn’t really mean to imply that anything is afoot. But since said people won’t go on the record, we have to go with what Moonves actually said.

Any kind of price cut would represent a partial victory for Jobs and Apple (AAPL) content boss Eddy Cue, who have been trying to convince the networks to lower their prices. The Financial Times first reported on those efforts last month.

Video sales haven’t been robust at iTunes and aren’t a significant revenue source for the networks. But since the networks are still worried about cannibalizing existing revenue sources like syndication fees and DVD sales, they’ve been reluctant to chop prices further.

GE’s (GE) NBC Universal ended up yanking its shows off of iTunes in 2008 because it wanted the ability to raise prices, and it got at least some of what it wanted: Since that imbroglio, networks have been able to sell their HD shows for $2.99 a piece.