It's really amazing this objection hasn't been heard before. Since iTunes debuted its podcast directory more than a year ago, the company has offered no information about the popularity of podcasts other than it's odd ranking charts based on subscriptions over the past 24 hours. Apple gives podcasters no idea how popular their shows are. And podcasters looking for visibility in the directory, like MLB, have little idea how to influence display.
MLBAM has pulled its content because it wants to be master of its own domain, as Seinfeld might say. Bowman says says MLB.com, itself delivering something like 30,000 podcasts a day, wants to be THE source for its programming. All the better to keep a larger share of revenues, from fees or advertising.
There was a hint of the same "I want control over my programming" in comments last week by Robert Iger, CEO of the Walt Disney Co. (DIS) when he said Disney.com will be relaunched next year and that the company sees the Internet as a platform for networks of the future.
As Om Malik and Niall Kennedy pointed out in a recent podcast, Disney would rather deliver its own content, charging for it and selling advertising around in it, than have to go out and make a variety of licensing deals with Google (GOOG) and Yahoo (YHOO), perhaps YouTube and MySpace, and so on.
While dozens of cable channels and the major TV networks are posting material on iTunes, too, we shouldn't don't lose sight of the fact many of them are investing heavily in their own audio and video download delivery services, where they don't have to share revenue.
Putting a dent in iTunes' directory/delivery business will not be easy. But one content provider here, another there ... it could add up.
Disclaimer: I own shares of Apple and Walt Disney.