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
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.