NBC returns to iTunes for 65 million viewers and HD action

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After pulling its shows from iTunes over a dispute involving pricing and bundled content deals a year ago, NBC has signed back up to sell its TV shows to iPod users.

At today's "Let's Rock" event, Steve Jobs reported the partnership between Apple and NBC Universal is back on once again, with Apple now advertising 65 million account holders in iTunes, the largest source for paid TV downloads anywhere.

Last year, NBC content made up roughly 40% of all video downloads on iTunes. Critics complained that NBC's pullout would decimate iTunes' attempts to break into TV distribution.

NBC began its own efforts to market TV online, but after lackluster reception to its own solo efforts to sell or describer ad-sponsored content for free, as well as lukewarm interest in a variety of partner sites with other broadcasters, the company is now ready to return to Apple and offer its content to the largest online market for video.

“The return of our shows to iTunes is terrific news for everyone who loves television and the ease and convenience of Apple’s iTunes,” said Jeff Zucker, President and CEO, NBC Universal. “And now, by offering consumers a variety of new options, our fans have even more ways to enjoy our content.”

Additional NBC Universal programming from the Oxygen, Telemundo, Mun2, and NBC Sports networks will be available on iTunes soon, while content from its NBC, USA Network, SCI FI Channel, Bravo, Sleuth and NBC News networks will be made available immediately. That includes show such as the award-winning and critically acclaimed “Heroes,” and the Emmy award-winning programs “The Office” and “Battlestar Galactica.”

NBC Universal will offer one free download from each of its top series—in standard or HD—during the next two weeks. The premiere episodes of upcoming NBC shows, such as “Knight Rider ,” “My Own Worst Enemy” and “Kath & Kim” will also be made available on iTunes a week before their broadcast premieres later in September and October, with subsequent episodes available the day after broadcast.

Apple also announced the availability of new HD TV content in iTunes, with new HD shows priced at $2.99 and existing standard-definition TV remaining at $1.99. Unlike the HD movies available on Apple TV, HD TV shows will be viewable on any iTunes-equipped Mac or PC. NBC will be among those offering HD TV content.

NBC is also making full episodes of several vintage television shows available on iTunes for $.99, including “The A-Team,” “The Alfred Hitchcock Hour,” “Miami Vice,” “Kojak” and the original “Battlestar Galactica.”