Sep 20, 2007

Peacock or Peahen?

NBC is certainly taking a bold step forward with their new plan to make their shows available for download. The plan provides two options: a free, non-transferable download with non-fast-forwardable commercials that self-destructs in seven days and a paid version that’s yours to keep and play on as many different devices as you’d like.

All available from an NBC site, rather than iTunes.

Now while this two-tier plan is long how I’ve predicted TV would shake out (me and several hundred other people; it’s not a particularly original notion) I’m not sure why NBC didn’t just do this through iTunes.

I’ve read that they had a conflict with iTunes over the wholesale price of the shows, but absent any real information on that, I can only give you my reaction as a consumer who has downloaded NBC shows off iTunes in the past. And that’s minor annoyance. While I’ll probably track down the NBC site so I can download stray episodes here and there (provided they make it Mac compatible), the inconvenience of having to go to another site to download something that I then have to transfer back to iTunes may make getting last week’s episode of The Office more hassle than it’s worth. A lot will depend on how easy it is to use NBC’s download site, which promises offer auto-downloading season passes as well as individual downloads.

On the other hand, saving the $1.99 for something I can all but guarantee you I’ll only watch once may well be worth the hassle. I especially like the part about self-destructing, since TV shows tend to eat up a huge amount of space on your hard drive, and shifting them to an external storage drive is a real bother.

It’ll be interesting to see how this plays out, if NBC manages to break iTunes’ monopoly on TV downloads or if consumers decide it’s just not worth the hassle. Those of us who make TV commercials for a living should be hoping for their success though: free TV shows with commercials embedded in them will keep us in business a bit longer.

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