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Pam and Karen; soon to be available for free from NBC Direct
NBC Universal will make its TV shows available for download for free

Regular readers of DailyTech should already be well abreast of NBC Universal's recent rift with online multimedia juggernaut Apple. NBC Universal butted heads with Apple over pricing for its TV shows on iTunes – NBC Universal wanted to up prices to $4.99 per episode while Apple wanted to stick to its $1.99 model.

NBC Universal publicly aired its grievances with Apple; Apple in turn decided to prematurely boot NBC Universal programming from iTunes.

NBC Universal saved face somewhat by shuttling its programming over to Amazon’s Unbox service. Amazon was more flexible in pricing than Apple which was music to NBC Universal’s ears. With Unbox, NBC Universal has more control over episode pricing, can offer discounts to consumers who purchase an entire season of a show and offer free downloads of show pilots.

According to The New York Times, NBC Universal isn’t stopping there. The media conglomerate will offer a new online service called NBC Direct. With NBC Direct, customers will be able to download TV shows to a Windows-based PC for free immediately after they have aired. Once downloaded, the episodes expire one week after the original air date.

While the episodes are free, there is one tiny catch: commercials will be embedded into the shows and cannot be skipped over.

NBC Universal hopes to eventually pit its NBC Direct service directly against iTunes. "With the creation of this new service, we are acknowledging that now, more than ever, viewers want to be in control of how, when and where they consume their favorite entertainment," remarked NBC Digital Entertainment executive VP Vivi Zigler. "Not only does this feature give them more control, but it also gives them a higher quality video experience."

NBC Universal’s move will effectively cut out the middleman says NBC Digital Entertainment president Jeff Gaspin.

NBC Direct will begin a trial period next month and should be fully operational in November.

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It's a start
By jak3676 on 9/20/2007 1:43:14 PM , Rating: 5
This is where we need that quote that a lot of people pay nothing for ____ and that's what its worth.

Sounds like a good option for those people who miss an epasode and want to catch up on it later. This only gives more people access to those of us with a DVR or Tivo have had for a long time - minus the ability to cut out commercials. Might as well make this service free.

Maybe NBC will start something.

RE: It's a start
By MatthewAC on 9/20/2007 2:03:12 PM , Rating: 2
I don't know about everyone else, but I love commercials and advertisement.

It allows the person wanting to be entertained to get their content cheaper/free for a mere 30 seconds most of the time.
I don't have DVR and I barely watch my tv except for my favorite shows so this is particularly appealing to me :).

RE: It's a start
By Brandon Hill on 9/20/2007 2:08:38 PM , Rating: 3
I won't say that I "LOVE" commercials, but I certainly don't mind them. When I'm watching Heroes on Monday nights, the commercials give me a chance to go make a quick trip to the restroom, or go get a quick snack/drink, or geekishly run over to my computer to type out "OMGWTFBBQ, did you just see Sylar jack up Peter against the wall?"

I can basically tune out commercials that annoy me (just about any car commercial), but the rest aren't that big of a deal.

And if it's legal and free, I'm not gonna complain.

RE: It's a start
By Ringold on 9/20/2007 2:19:49 PM , Rating: 2
I totally agree. I like to watch Eureka, for example, on SciFi, but almost always busy when it's showing and my DVR is only so convenient; I prefer watching on my computer, as I can do other things on the side. Same goes for Mad Money; usually off at dinner.

If the resolution is equivalent to what is available by illicit means (HD even better!), I'll be a big fan of this approach. I don't mind the 1 week restriction either; 95% of shows I watch once and then clear the HD anyway. Let the commercials flow!

RE: It's a start
By Scorpion on 9/20/2007 2:21:34 PM , Rating: 4
I won't say that I "LOVE" commercials, but I certainly don't mind them. When I'm watching Heroes on Monday nights, the commercials give me a chance to go make a quick trip to the restroom, or go get a quick snack/drink, or geekishly run over to my computer to type out "OMGWTFBBQ, did you just see Sylar jack up Peter against the wall?"

Controls that allow you pause the show and advance past commercials can also give you the same benefits, minus the commercials.

"With the creation of this new service, we are acknowledging that now, more than ever, viewers want to be in control of how, when and where they consume their favorite entertainment," remarked NBC Digital Entertainment executive VP Vivi Zigler. "Not only does this feature give them more control, but it also gives them a higher quality video experience."

More control? hmmm. How is forcing you to watch commercials "more control"? Sure, it allows the shows to be free, but I think I'd rather pay a small fee, like iTunes $1.99 for commercial free quality programming. Something also tells me that the "how, when, and where" aspect of control will also be grossly exagerated. Hey, but if they say it, I must believe it right?

RE: It's a start
By timmiser on 9/21/2007 2:56:29 PM , Rating: 2
There are two kinds of people in this world:

1. Those who don't have a DVR and honestly believe that they are "OK" with commercials because they don't annoy them or they think it allows them to get a snack or use the restroom and just put up with it... blah blah blah.

2. Those that have a DVR and know better.

RE: It's a start
By Hydrofirex on 9/20/2007 6:56:02 PM , Rating: 2
or geekishly run over to my computer to type out "OMGWTFBBQ, did you just see Sylar jack up Peter against the wall?"

I thought I was the only dork who did that... something that started with Battle Star Gallactiga. "OMFG Baltar just boned BOTH cylons!" I love heroes, but it's a bit shy of the awesomeness that is BSG.


RE: It's a start
By FITCamaro on 9/20/2007 2:04:43 PM , Rating: 2
This is awesome. I have a DVR but I honestly rarely skip commercials because I'm normally not just sitting there watching TV.

My question is what will be the quality of the episodes? If its near DVD quality, that'd be great.

They're not the first to offer this though since ABC has had this for some of their shows for about a year. You don't download it though, just stream it. And the quality isn't extremely high but its not bad. You wouldn't want to watch it on a big TV though.

RE: It's a start
By Misty Dingos on 9/20/2007 2:21:35 PM , Rating: 2
Been here done that. I have used this feature from NBC. It promises to be a nice way to get some TV. Personaly I downloaded and watched the pilot for the Bionic Woman as I thought with the guys from Battlestar Gallactica behind the camera it was going to be good. Well they may want to rethink that whole BG ending finale at the end of the season. Because I don't think that the Bionic Woman paychecks are going to fill many bellies. I am not saying there is no hope but at this point. But giving it away may be the only way to get someone to watch it. It is 42 minutes in the downloaded form. 42 minutes that I can not get back. Not nearly as good as BG, not as edgy, not as thought through and not as well acted.

And a DVR is the only way to watch TV. Don't watch any commercial I don't want to.

RE: It's a start
By Gul Westfale on 9/20/2007 10:44:05 PM , Rating: 2
so this is basically just like watching TV- you get to watch the show, they get to show you some commercials. i have wondered why they didn't do this before; i myself don't have a TV anymore, and while i am usually glad that i gave up on it i do miss shows like house and south park (i already have most trek on dvd so idon't miss that lol).

i know that there are certain ways that one can use to "obtain" content, but NBC's concept makes it nice and legal. let's hope the DL speeds will be fast, and that the image/sound quality will be good.

Now who is right
By crystal clear on 9/20/2007 4:31:43 PM , Rating: 2
Once downloaded, the episodes would be viewable for one week.

But it should be the opposite-

the episodes from NBC Direct are not only ad-supported, but they expire within a week of the episode's original on-air date, not a week after download.

RE: Now who is right
By TomZ on 9/20/2007 4:42:00 PM , Rating: 1
Yeah, I see that as a problem - one week is pretty short. It would be pretty easy to miss that window, and so people might continue to rely on Tivo and the like instead.

I also see in that article that NBC is preparing a Windows-only client. That tells me two more problems with this service, first is that it requires a proprietary client, and second is that other OS users are excluded. Each of these will also reduce number of users that actually use the service.

I'd say this NBC offering is pretty far from ideal. It's step in the right direction, but it still leaves a lot of opportunity for improvement.

RE: Now who is right
By Gul Westfale on 9/20/2007 10:47:37 PM , Rating: 1
mac users are mindless drones that do what jobs tells them (if they weren't then they wouldn't be mac users), and therefore they will stay with itunes. linux, while certainly becoming more and more accepted, is still a far way from the mainstream. so it makes commercial sense for them do develop for the one dominating platform first. if i were them i would probably be looking at consoles next before looking at another PC OS.

also, remember that they had a little fight with apple? maybe that is another reason why there is no mac client.

RE: Now who is right
By kelmon on 9/21/07, Rating: 0
Targeting commercials
By wordsworm on 9/21/2007 1:08:31 AM , Rating: 2
Personally, if I have to take a break from watching TV, I prefer using the pause button to being force fed commercials for cars (which I'll never buy), horse piss (aka Budwheezer), and car insurance. I'd much prefer seeing commercials from Asus or Gigabyte, et al for products I might actually be interested in. I don't watch mainstream movies often, but I sure like the underground scene. Finding good underground films is a real challenge. Seeing previews to them in lieu of the blockbuster duds (kind of like the kaleidescope plot machines of Orwell's 1984 if you ask me). Music ought to be advertised to me that I'm actually interested in, with links to buy and download. The chances of actual revenue being made from areas of interest that I have rather than having to watch ads for things that have no relevance to me is much greater. Will commercials become intelligent with downloadable TV? It remains to be seen.

RE: Targeting commercials
By acer905 on 9/21/2007 8:03:29 AM , Rating: 2
Hmm, this does seem to be a good idea. Simply take a system like a "gamer profile" and make your own "consumer profile" that you can somehow log into. Then, the first time you do so, you fill out a list of items that interest you, different services, products, and such. Then, when you are watching tv, and a commercial comes on, its an ad targeted toward you. With ads for things you might like, you would pay more attention, and then possibly buy more, which would make everyone happy.

One correction
By VoodooChicken on 9/20/2007 2:39:40 PM , Rating: 3
I believe it's been reported NBC wanted to charge UP TO $4.99 an episode, not $4.99 across the board. While $4.99 seems high to me, I do think different shows should charge different prices. Specifically, 22-minute shows shouldn't be the same price as 44-minute ones. Previous seasons shouldn't be the same price as the currently airing episodes (maybe 2 or 3 years back).
Often, I can walk into a store, or buy online, a DVD set, WITH special features, and it amounts to less than a dollar an ep. I only buy iTunes or Unboxes if I really want ONE ep and not the whole series (like Desperate Housewives' "Bang" or SG-1's "200th ep")

Amazon Unbox Video Player
By TomZ on 9/20/2007 2:43:52 PM , Rating: 1
Checking out the pilots offered by NBC via Amazon, it seems like this requires you to download and install Amazon's "Unbox" player. Does anyone know if this is absolutely required, or if NBC will also have a proprietary player as well?

Is is pretty annoying to have a separate player required for each content provider. Like anyone wants to install a dozen different media player apps.

RE: Amazon Unbox Video Player
By VoodooChicken on 9/20/2007 3:43:50 PM , Rating: 2
NBC went to Amazon for paid downloads (and the free pilots). They are working on a new system, as indicated in this article, for free temporary downloads of certain shows. It would have to be proprietary, but eventually you SHOULD be able to put it on various handhelds. I assume this would involve converting the file, or a subfile for portables would be included (Unbox does this for purchases, not rentals)

The bad
By Anosh on 9/20/2007 3:58:31 PM , Rating: 3
Just about the (only) bad thing when it comes to these kind of announcements for us in the EU (or anyone else not in US) is the availability.

It's simply not available outside of US very much like Spiralfrog's free downloads.

Dunder Mifflin is hiring
By comprotech on 9/21/2007 1:42:15 AM , Rating: 1
Speaking of NBC/The Office...

I'm hiring virtual employees for the Kalamazoo, MI branch of Dunder Mifflin. Go to and sign up to be an employee in the Kalamazoo, MI branch with the hiring code qr9t6wqch9. Bonus Schrute Bucks if you enter "Kessler's" where it asks for the DVD bonus code.

RE: Dunder Mifflin is hiring
By TomZ on 9/21/2007 8:12:34 AM , Rating: 2
No comment spam please!!!

Free & money
By crystal clear on 9/20/2007 2:59:17 PM , Rating: 2
Quote of the day -

The modern business model and businesses are learning - sometimes FREE can actually make money.

Source-Daily Tech.

Ladies and Gentlemen
By cplusplus on 9/20/2007 3:10:36 PM , Rating: 2
This is the real reason they want to increase pricing. I'm not the first to realize this, but it makes perfect sense. Raise the price for the episodes that have just come on (which are the ones people are most likely to buy), then offer a free alternative that uses their old standby business model of adding commercials. You still get your money, but it is from a different source, and it is guaranteed even before you start showing the episode. Actually, even if I didn't want to raise prices, it makes sense to take the shows off iTunes to give consumers fewer legal avenues to get the shows (to make them use your service).

By acer905 on 9/21/2007 8:13:25 AM , Rating: 2
I still say that if ya have cable/sattelite you've already paid to watch the show, so why should it even have commercials? Wasn't the original plan to not have commercials on cable? But then again i'm the type who thinks that you should only have to pay for something once, and be able to use it whenever you wish as much as you want. Just imagine if you bought a car but could only drive it a set amount of times. But, theres always one of the many ways to simply record what are already getting. VCR (yup, old school!) DVR, hell if you don't care about picture quality set up a video camera in front of the television... and just hit record.

The Office
By timmiser on 9/21/2007 2:52:58 PM , Rating: 2
Regular readers of DailyTech should already be well abreast...

While we're on this subject, Pam sure is hot!

Proprietary Windows-only Client?
By teckytech9 on 9/22/2007 1:50:09 AM , Rating: 2
Does that means the stream won't be in mov, wmv, rm, or flv formats?
Now there must be some real innovation in the works here (file format and a new player).

This expiry within a week download and playback capability is just plain confusing.
Would that mean the following may or may not happen?

1. A download for an episode would only be offered on the website for a week. (and/or)
2. Once episode is downloaded, it is only playable for a weeks time.

Whoa , that would be some heavy DRM in the works. As for the embedded commercials, is the audience forced to watch what’s feed to them or could they pick and choose which ones to play? Could one also make a hypothetical assumption that the new player will only be supported by Vista and not XP?

"Well, we didn't have anyone in line that got shot waiting for our system." -- Nintendo of America Vice President Perrin Kaplan
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