NBC wants viewers to know that there is life after iTunes. On Sept. 19, three weeks after an acrimonious split from Apple, the Peacock announced that viewers can now download Hiro, Chuck, and company for free through its new service, NBC Direct, starting next month. Says JB Perrette, the network’s president of digital distribution, ”It’s about extending NBC.com’s reach to an audience that doesn’t want to have to be attached to a broadband connection.”
Shows downloaded from NBC Direct include commercials that can’t be fast-forwarded, and you’ll have just one week after an episode is broadcast to download and view it. After that, the file will — poof! — degrade. The site only works with Windows-based computers, meaning Mac users and those who like to take their TV to go on iPods or Zune players are out of luck. NBC says it’s exploring ways to make NBC Direct compatible with those devices, but for now the network isn’t worried about the portability issue. (Owners of lesser-known players like the Zen Vision can still use Amazon’s Unbox to watch shows.) Explains Perrette, ”We’ve found the majority of downloaded content is still viewed on a PC or laptop.”
As the Peacock makes non-iTunes plans, other networks are getting cozier with the service. On Sept. 21, CBS announced that it has finally reached an agreement with 20th Century Fox to make episodes of CBS’ How I Met Your Mother available on iTunes, while Fox announced that it will offer all of its fall premieres for free on Apple’s store for two weeks. It’s too early to tell how these decisions will affect ratings, but it’s clear that the networks are desperate to conquer the cyber-frontier. ”There are so many more opportunities,” says 20th Century Fox Television chairman Gary Newman. ”We’re all still trying to figure out how to maximize the value of the digital platform.” Welcome to 2007, you guys!