What Happened to The Legend of Korra on iTunes?

I cut the cable many years ago, so most of my television content is either streamed through Netflix or purchased from iTunes. This has worked out really great for our family, but every once in a while there is a hiccup. Enter The Legend of Korra Book 3...

The Problem

I purchased the full "Season Pass" of Season 1 (Book 1) and Season 2 (Book 2) of Korra through iTunes. But then all of the sudden out of the blue Nickelodeon airs the 3rd season of Korra (Book 3) on TV. The previous two seasons had all kinds of announcements leading up to the release, but not this time. And there was one more big difference...Book 3 was not available for sale on iTunes. In fact, Nickelodeon went even further and pulled the previous seasons from the iTunes store. There is next to nothing online about why any of this happened. The article at the Lawyer Herald has about the best explanation I could find. The Lawyer Herald article said:

"Forbes said it was a strategy taken by Nickelodeon to regain control of its own content when a Mexican unit of theirs had leaked four mid-season episodes on the Internet as they are working on dubbing and subtitling the episodes for the region."

So it appears Nickelodeon has taken all online content from the series down including the ability to stream past episodes from its own website. Within a few weeks of the airing of the 1st episode the episodes from Season 3 (Book 3) were made available for sale from Amazon, but not anywhere else. So what does this mean for people like me who have purchased the previous two seasons of Korra from iTunes? I wasn't sure so I contacted Apple.

The Response From Apple

The answer I got back from Apple is what I expected. Apple does not control when and for how long content on the iTunes Store is available for purchase. The content providers can choose at any time to pull content from the store and no longer make it available for purchase. No surprise there.

The 2nd part to my question to Apple was how long content is available for re-download after initially purchasing content on the iTunes Store. The initial answer I received from Apple Customer Support was that Nickelodeon had removed all seasons of Korra from iTunes and not only could I not purchase the new season but I also could no longer re-download the previous 2 seasons of Korra I have purchased and watched but never downloaded. Except Apple was wrong. I can still download Seasons 1 and 2. So I replied to Apple and asked more questions. The content providers get to make all the calls with respect to content on the iTunes Store. In this case, it looks like previous seasons of Korra can still be downloaded FOR NOW. Which means if you have previously purchased either Season 1 or Season 2, make sure you have all the episodes downloaded. There is no telling when Nickelodeon may decide to pull previously purchased episodes from iTune in the Cloud.

What is iTunes in the Cloud?

For those of you that don't know there an aspect of iTunes called "iTunes in the Cloud." iTunes in the Cloud lets you do things like:

  • Access your content on all your devices
  • Anything you purchase in the iTunes Store, the App Store, and iBooks is automatically available on all your devices
  • Start watching something on one device and finish watching it from the same space on another device
  • Access past purchases from any of your devices

The last one has a footnote attached to it. It says:

Previous purchases may be unavailable if they are no longer on the iTunes Store

What this means is that if you purchase a movie for a TV show from iTunes the only way to guarantee you will always be able to watch that content is if you download, store and backup those movies and TV shows. I had not been downloading all of the content I purchase from iTunes. I buy a lot of full seasons (Season Passes) of TV shows. So when a new episode is available I simply fire up my Apple TV and stream and watch the new episode from iTunes without having to first download the episode to my computer and streaming the content from my computer to my Apple TV. But in doing it this way I have set myself up for potentially losing the ability to watch content I have purchased when content providers like Nickelodeon decide they no longer want to sell content on iTunes.

What Does All This Mean?

It's pretty simple. If you purchase anything from iTunes (an app, a song, a TV show, an iBook or a movie) you should make sure you keep a local copy of that item and regularly back up that content. In my case, I am going into iTunes on my computer and downloading any TV episode or movie I have I purchased. Yes, even with some movies I have purchased I don't have a downloaded local copy. I really do rely on streaming iTunes content from my Apple TV 99% of the time. If you are in the same boat I am and have some previously purchased content that isn't on your local computer, then how do you download it? Believe it or not this can be a bit tricky. Before you can go into iTunes and download these undownloaded episodes you need to do the following:

  1. Go into the iTunes menu under Preferences the under the Store tab
  2. Make sure the "Show iTunes in the Cloud purchases" box at the bottom is checked

Once you have done this, you can then go into your iTunes library and select a TV show season or a movie that you suspect you don't have local on your computer. In my case it was Season 1 (Book 1) of Korra. You should see something similar to this:

See the little cloud icon off the right hand side of all the episodes? That means those episodes are not local on my computer but they are available via iTunes in the cloud. Click on the cloud icon and the episode will begin to download to your computer. Repeat this for any TV episode you want to make sure you can always go back and view. Follow the same procedure for movies. Movies will look a little bit different, but notice the cloud icon looks the same in each view.

In the grid view it looks like this:

In the list view it looks like this:

The last take away from all of this is that the availibility of the 3 seasons of Korra on iTunes has nothing to do with Apple and everything to do with Nickelodeon. If you aren't happy with what Nickelodeon has done, please contact Nickelodeon. I have contacted them and they have ignored both my email and my tweet. I'm not suprised. Based on what they have done with their content on iTunes it is clear that Nickelodeon doesn't care about the consumers of their television shows (at least not those who purchase their content through iTunes).

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