NBC Goes Direct
In a first step toward offering content for sale or rent on its own branded digital platform, NBC on Wednesday said it would be making full episodes of its TV shows available for download via NBC Direct, available at NBC.com.
Once the beta test starts in October, shows will be available for one week for users of Windows-based PCs. Later, users will be able to subscribe to the service for free and automatically download their favorite shows, much like iTunes users can do now with podcasts and the like. And even further down the road, NBC plans to provide “expanded functionality” and “digital-rights-management protected versions of its programs to be downloaded to Macs and portable devices in addition to PCs.” And sticking with press release speak for the moment, “future enhancements such as high-resolution versions of programming [will be] made available via a closed ‘peer to peer’ distribution network … [allowing] the maximum number of users to view consistent, high-quality content directly from their desktops.”
Whew. Okay, what does all that mean? Essentially, NBC understands that it needs to make its content available to consumers in as many places as possible, but it wants its brand attached to that content.
Frankly, that makes sense. When people want to download or stream an episode of The Office, the first place they think to go to is NBC, of course. But up until now, those episodes have only been available on Apple’s iTunes (no longer) or Amazon Unbox (since the Apple deal fell apart). If you are NBC, you want people to be able to get what they want when they come to your site. More information on Heroes? Check. Graphic comic book? Check. Last night’s episode? Check. It’s just good business not to send people somewhere else to get your stuff.
That said, other suits at NBC also are still working on their joint venture with News Corp., Hulu.com, which also enters beta next month. While that’s a bit confusing to me – why do you need to be able to download NBC’s content from NBC.com, Hulu.com and Amazon and wherever else? – NBC says it’s their mission to provide their content to consumers anywhere they want it. Moreover, for now, Hulu will be a streaming site, not a site where consumers can download and buy content.
NBC says this doesn’t really have anything to do with its Apple deal disintegrating. I think that’s probably unlikely, but it doesn’t matter. NBC has plenty of good reasons to get this sort of thing going on its own, and it’s just as easy for consumers to go to NBC.com as it is for them to go iTunes or anywhere else.