To add insult to injury, NBC Universal announced that the network will allow free consumer downloads of its most popular programs for a week after airing, starting this November after a trial period in October. This comes after the high profile split from Apple Inc.’s service iTunes.
The partnership crumbled over a pricing disagreement and the concern that iTunes had a lack of piracy protection. The move will help NBC’s ad revenue as the viewing audience is increasingly turning to TiVo and DVR systems to surpass commercial watching. There is a higher demand to watch programs whenever the viewer wants as well.
President of NBC Universal Television Group Jeff Gaspin stated in The New York Times, “The shift from programmer to consumer controlling program choices is the biggest change in the media business in the past 25 or 30 years.”
The new service named NBC Direct will allow users to download shows the night they air and keep them on their computers for a week. Users may also schedule automatic delivery of their programs of choice. The episodes will also contain, like many episodes offered on network sites, “unskippable” commercials and will not be able to be downloaded to another device, either computer or disk.
Downloads will initially be available for PCs that include Windows and eventually will be available for Macs and iPod users.
After implementing this first part, NBC will then come out with the offer for paid downloads that would be fully owned by users and would be transferable from the buyer’s computer, just like iTunes and other downloading services. This will possibly be available by the middle of 2008.
Analysts debate that NBC is now perceived as greedy because it wants to charge more for their programs and that customers will not warm up to the idea of having their content download sites be fragmented. If the service will prove to be a success is still up in the air. Since there has not been a projection of how much the service will cost, it is entirely possible that getting a TiVo may be cheaper.