NBC to allow free downloading of its TV shows

From the Associated Press

NBC will start offering limited free downloads of shows such as “Heroes” and “The Office” as part of its bid to expand the digital distribution of its programs and compete with Apple Inc.'s iTunes Store, the network announced Wednesday.

The new service, dubbed NBC Direct, will allow users to download episodes to computers running Microsoft Windows software for up to a week after the show has aired on television. The file will contain embedded advertising that cannot be skipped.

Seven days after the episode’s TV debut, the digital file will expire.


The new service will launch in a test version in October and be expanded in coming months to let users subscribe to shows and download them automatically. Upcoming versions to be introduced by year’s end also will allow viewers to move the file to a portable viewing device or watch them on a Mac computer.

High-definition shows eventually will be available through peer-to-peer technology, which will speed downloading of larger files, NBC said. A software player with filtering technology will prevent users from playing illegally downloaded videos.

NBC, like many networks, already sells episodes for permanent download and streams them for free on its website. It is experimenting with a variety of business models and technology to give viewers more options for watching shows.

That goal has become more important since NBC Universal, a unit of General Electric Co., said it would no longer sell TV episodes on iTunes because it wanted the ability to sell its shows at a variety of prices instead of the $1.99 mandated by Apple.

“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 [view] their favorite entertainment,” said Vivi Zigler, executive vice president of NBC Digital Entertainment.

Other programs that will be available at launch include “Life,” “Bionic Woman,” “30 Rock,” “Friday Night Lights,” “Late Night with Conan O’Brien” and “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno.”