The NBC television network seems to be trying a little bit of everything to snag Internet viewers. In addition to selling shows via Amazon Unbox (mentioned last week), they have announced a new service called NBC Direct which allows free download and viewing of a selection of NBC programming for up to a week after a program airs.
The first version of this new feature, which will begin beta testing in October, will allow users to download full length episodes for viewing on Windows based PCs. Each original episode will be licensed to users for viewing through “NBC Direct” for one week following broadcast and will then expire. The downloaded file will provide users with an improved overall viewing experience compared to traditional streaming video. The list of programs available at launch will include “Heroes,” “The Office,” “Life,” “Bionic Woman,” “30 Rock,” “Friday Night Lights,” “Late Night with Conan O’Brien” and “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno.”
Later in the beta launch, users will be provided the free subscription option that will allow them to pre-select their favorite NBC programs they want to watch. Those shows will be automatically delivered to their computers as soon as they are available after the original broadcast. The downloadable player will also have filtering technology, which will prevent it from playing any stolen copyrighted material.
All this sounds like a video recorder equivalent (including embedded commercials) and not a bad idea at all, although limiting playback to Windows PCs will surely make some folks cranky. They aren’t stopping there though:
Future versions of “NBC Direct,” which will roll out over the next several months, will provide expanded platform functionality and will allow DRM (“digital rights management”) protected versions of its programs to be downloaded to Macs and portable devices in addition to PCs. NBC.com plans future enhancements such as high-resolution versions of programming made available via a closed P2P (“peer to peer”) distribution network.
They also plan to experiment in the future with a variety of other business models for downloaded content and givien the current state of Internet TV downloads, that seems very prudent.