NBC Goes Direct With Free Ad-Supported Downloads
In another blow to Apple's iTunes, NBC Universal recently decided not to renew a distribution deal with the download king, because of issues over packaging and pricing. It is offering programming for sale through Amazon's Unbox.
NBC, which has let viewers stream its shows online for a year, is using alternative viewing options to overcome threatening consumer trends like audience fragmentation and time-shifting.
"We are acknowledging that now, more than ever, viewers want to be in control of how, when and where they consume their favorite entertainment," said Vivi Zigler, executive vice president of NBC Digital Entertainment.
As it stands, NBC Direct has no direct relationship with Hulu.com, the forthcoming joint venture between NBC Universal and News Corporation. And while NBC's strategy is clearly to offer as many viewing alternatives as possible, there is always the threat that the two services could cannibalize one another's traffic.
In its initial phase, the "NBC Direct" service will only accommodate PC users running Windows. In the coming months, users of Macs and various portable devices will be able to download the episodes, which "expire" a week after they air on TV.
The downloads will come with standard "chapter pre-roll" ads, according to an NBC spokesman who would not name specific brand sponsors attached to the service.
NBC eventually plans to offer a free subscription option, which will allow users to pre-select series to be automatically delivered to their computers. Future enhancements to "NBC Direct" will include high-resolution versions of programming made available via a closed peer-to-peer distribution network.
"Later in 2008, NBC.com plans to offer other business models for downloaded content in order to provide its users multiple options," the NBC spokesman said.
Other series available through "NBC Direct" will include "The Office," "Life," "Bionic Woman," and "Friday Night Lights."