NBC Announces Free "Downloads" Of TV Shows

NBC has announced that it will “permit” customers to download its shows for free. The downloads will expire after a week and become unplayable, according to the NYT.

The service, which is set to start in November after a test period in October, comes less than three weeks after NBC Universal said it was pulling its programs out of the highly successful iTunes service of Apple Inc. That partnership fell apart because of a dispute over Apple’s iTunes pricing policies and what NBC executives said were concerns about lack of piracy protection.

NBC makes many of its popular shows available online in streaming media, which means that fans can watch episodes on their computers. Under the new NBC service, called NBC Direct, consumers will be able to download, for no fee, NBC programs like “Heroes,” “The Office” and “The Tonight Show With Jay Leno” on the night that they are broadcast and keep them for seven days. They would also be able to subscribe to shows, guaranteeing delivery each week.

But the files, which would be downloaded overnight to home computers, would contain commercials that viewers would not be able to skip through. And the file would not be transferable to a disk or to another computer.

The files would degrade after the seven-day period and be unwatchable. “Kind of like ‘Mission: Impossible,’ only I don’t think there would be any explosion and smoke,” Mr. Gaspin said.

We are so sick of hearing about piracy.

Anyone interested in these downloads? Too much DRM?

NBC to Offer Downloads of Its Shows


Edit Your Comment

  1. Uriel says:

    wow, and only like 4 years too late…

  2. howie_in_az says:

    And their DRM will be hacked in 3… 2… 1…

  3. Why would anyone want to download something with commercials?

  4. Steel_Pelican says:

    Seems like a fair compromise to me, without knowing too many details. Assuming I can watch it from the device of my choice, that is.

    Not too sure about the un-skippable commercials, though. I suppose if there was an option to buy a DRM-free, commercial-free, hi-res version (at a fair price), NBC might be on to something.

  5. zentec says:

    Appears to me that NBC doesn’t quite understand why people were paying to download the same thing on iTunes.

    First, the paid version didn’t have commercials. While not my cup of tea, I can see how people might think a couple bucks is worth saving the 20 minute commercial load. Plus it’s nice to have the ability to rewind and pause, and watch it when, where and as many times as the viewer likes.

    NBC comes out of the gate not only with programming lacking any compelling reason to visit their web site, but completely ambivalent to the reasons people were paying money to download their shows. You get a 7 day opportunity to view your downloads, of course it’ll have commercials and because of that, you’re probably out of luck in being able to pause, rewind or fast forward.

    Furthermore, because we’re all pirates, NBC doesn’t trust us to put the content on our portable devices and insists on putting DRM on what they just a few hours ago freely cast into the wind.

    These people have no idea what their customers want. Appointment TV is dead, and not only are the local TV stations in peril from being unable to adjust, but the networks will soon follow. The content originators, studios and film makers, professional as well as amateur, will have a direct line to the eyeballs leaving companies like NBC fighting over advertising dollars targeted for the lowest common demographic.

    This move just cements my opinion that they should have just shut up on their visits to Cupertino and let Steve Jobs, as arrogant as he is, educate them.

  6. Anonymous says:

    The only problem for me at least is that I really do not enjoy watching TV on a computer. That’s the beauty of Apple TV. I get to watch TV Shows and podcasts on the big screen and I’m willing to pay $1.99 to do it.

  7. Anonymous says:

    I watched every single episode of Heroes using my Apple TV. What a great experience! There were no commercials, looked great on big screen and I could even download it to an ipod. Really not so interested in watching TV on my computer!

  8. Mills says:

    Anyone else had their parents call them and ask how to use torrents, now that they can’t get their favorite shows from itunes?

  9. LatherRinseRepeat says:

    These big media companies just don’t get it. Sheesh.

  10. grizzman says:

    This is useless to me since
    A) I watch downloaded shows on my TV through my ipod
    B) I have a Mac

    I can’t transfer it to another device, and I need Internet Explorer, which isn’t even made for Macs anymore. Thanks NBC for the user friendly product!

    Besides, why would I bother with this when I could just continue to download the bitorrent of my favorite shows each week without any hassle (or commercials)?

  11. shertzerj says:

    Well, I mean, it IS free… as in, you’re not paying for anything. All the NBC vs. iTunes crap aside, don’t you think it’s silly to whine about having to watch commercials and not being able to copy it to all your personal devices when you’re paying nothing for it? Maybe I just don’t get it.

  12. goodguy812 says:

    yeah, i like a few shows on nbc, and don’t mind commercials. if i can watch full length videos in good quality, count me in.

    free is free. you can legally give it to people, or you can have them figure out how to steal it. either way, i’d probably not care as long as i can watch my favorite shows for free.

  13. goodguy812 says:

    bitlord is the best. you can get good torrent searches on http://www.isohunt.com also. the best combo i have found for downloading.

  14. Brad2723 says:

    I think it is a fair compromise. The shows don’t pay for themselves. Like it or not, commercials pay for the shows. The show is just “filler” between the commercials. For the ability to download the show for free and watch on any device of my choosing, I would be willing to put up with some commercials. Alternatively, there are people who would pay for a version without commercials. It looks like they are trying to work with us.

  15. goodguy812 says:

    who watches t.v. or movies on a portable device? and where are you doing it at? i’ve never seen you! and anytime i try to bust out my psp in public i get wierd stares like, dude “your a dork!”

  16. goodguy812 says:

    noone buy an ipod touch…….i heard that they will slash the price in 2 months!!!!!lol!!!lmao!!!

  17. Cowboys_fan says:

    @goodguy812: I use utorrent and http://www.demonoid.com.

    They have the right idea here, just implemented wrong. Hopefully they will iron out the wrinkles but who knows.

  18. dotyoureyes says:

    Anyone care to guess how long until the “non-skippable” ads are hacked? If the DRM is Windows Media-based, there’s a very real possibility FairUse4WM will just unlock the shows right off the bat.

  19. goodguy812 says:

    hackers have too much time on their hands when they are reduced to trying to remove comercials from a program. put your skills to some better use. and quit hacking video games!! your killing the fun, and will eventually kill online gaming.

  20. spevman says:


    I do. I download every show I watch via bittorrent (Azureus client program) from EZTVEFNET.org, Mininova, and Demonoid. I have a Creative Zen vision W player ([www.creative.com]) and I watch on the bus/train as I go to/from work. I also sometimes watch on my lunch hour.

  21. kahri says:

    @goodguy812: “anytime i try to bust out my psp in public i get wierd stares like, dude “your a dork!”‘
    So? C’mon do you have a PSP for YOUR enjoyment or to look cool? No offense, it just sounds like you put your PSP away when you get disapprover’s stares. I watch TV on my PSP (in line @ bank/airport etc) also on my treo. And I love that i don’t have to have internet access to watch. just my .02

  22. I’d rather watch streaming and not download something with that much DRM attached to it. But I’m not offended by unskippable commercials if I’m getting it for free. Commercials only offend me when I PAID for something. I am willing to submit to being advertised to in exchange for getting something I want for free. I still won’t actually *watch* the commercials, though. (Except that awesome Heineken draught keg one with the robot women. Also the draught keg itself is pretty awesome, I bought one this week.)

  23. adamondi says:

    @grizzman: My sentiments exactly. I would never bother to have one of NBC’s DRM-laden downloads when I can very easily obtain HD, commercial-free, DivX or XVid copies of any new show I want using my best friend: Bittorrent.

    Once again, until the commercial way of distributing content online is better than the Peer-to-Peer online solutions, the people who really WANT online distribution will not embrace the commercial way.

  24. Trai_Dep says:

    So I have to watch the whole damned thing in one uninterrupted viewing? If something kewl comes on, I can’t rewind and Sylar hurl Hiro through a sculpture and into the 14th century? Oh, wait, I can. Just start at the beginning of the episode and start my stopwatch. Ew!

    Also nice to know that when I’m out of the house for more than a couple days, I’ll come home to an expired episode.

    Does their DRM invade my privacy?

    Does it work on a Mac. (ha ha ha, of course that’s a rhetorical Q)

    What resolution is it? Surely it will look like crap on the HDTVs.

    And can I sit on my couch to view, as I could have with the previous version? Take it on the underground?

    Considering that NBC was booted b/c they wanted to DOUBLE the price of their shows, I don’t see much of a victory for them giving it away for free. Even with commercials.

    Wow, does Pirate Bay owe NBC money for boosting their traffic? I think they do…

  25. jydesign says:

    Apple updates all its iPods (except Shuffle) to have video support, so what does NBC do? Pull its content off iTunes. Brilliant, they’ll offer free shows with homegrown DRM and they won’t work on Macs and probably not on the most popular portable media player out there. Also, want to know where to find the people watch video on tiny players? Try flying on an airplane or waiting in an airport…

  26. goodguy812 says:

    i don’t put it away! skrew that! i admit i’m a dork. i just feel like i’m the only one because i never see anyone else with one.

  27. Chicago7 says:

    Other than maybe a football game or some horse racing, I haven’t watched an NBC show since Seinfeld??? Or CBS or ABC, for that matter.

  28. nrfx01 says:

    Is this any surprise coming from a network related to MSNbc? I think its a ploy from microsoft to become more relevant in media distribution.

  29. goodguy812 says:

    well the downloads will probably beat my bunny ears! and if you have an hd tv, why do you need to pirate shows? why buy a nice t.v. when you can’t afford cable?

  30. etinterrapax says:

    NBC has really convinced itself that it doesn’t need as wide as possible an audience for its shows. That’s adorable, fourth-place network…

  31. goodguy812 says:

    i don’t have an ipod because i have a psp. but if i bought an ipod, can i transfer music that i have downloaded illgally? or does it have to come from the itunes site? surely they wouldn’t make you buy every single song for it? and i have a pocket pc (dell axim) and pocket t.v. program (free from download.com) and it plays every type of video format (except for divx).

  32. Twitch says:

    I’ll still use BT to download Heroes.

  33. MercuryPDX says:

    @goodguy812: I agree with the isohunt.com recommendation. They’re good for software too, not that I download that or anything.

  34. Trai_Dep says:

    @goodguy812: Err, you’re aware that cable and satellite providers choke the resolution of their HD programming, right? De-rez it? This beyond the fact that you have to pay a surcharge to even receive HDTV.

    Over-the-air HD programming is not only free, but it’s better.

    Oh, and you DO have your HDTV set up correctly, don’t you? 30% (or is it 60%) of HDTV owners wired their TVs to receive NTSC… You might want to check.

  35. casualweaponry says:

    A good idea, but I can’t use this. My main TV time is durng my commute. And since I only stick with legal torrents (yes I’m paranoid) looks like I’m outta luck.

  36. MrBartokomous says:

    Is it in HD? If these are 720p files, I’m in for sure… oh wait, I’m in Canada. And these things never work outside the US, so I guess I have no choice but to download the HD episodes, commercial-free, via torrent.

  37. cSam says:

    I would like to weigh in on this as a college student: all of last semester, I watched TV shows on my computer because I had better things to do during primetime TV hours. And I definitely didn’t feel like paying for every episode of the shows I liked, so I would watch them free on each channel’s website. ABC is the best for this since they have all of their primetime shows online, but I digress. NBC’s new program isn’t that much different from what they’ve been doing all along: offering episodes of their shows for a limited time on their website with *very* limited commercial interruptions. If that bothers you, then mute, but it’s definitely worth the price (which is, oh yeah, nothing!), and you still get to watch your favorite shows at your convenience.

  38. nardo218 says:

    I can’t watch Heroes b/c of proprietary issues (ie the tv that gets in NBC is my parents’), and our ISP sends threatening letters if you illegally dl new tv eps, so yeah, I guess I’m stuck with this crappy download thing for this season. Of course, if Alluc has links to the eps or NBC continues to put their eps up on their website, I’ll watch that way. I don’t like Heroes enough to need to save the eps, so I don’t care about the DRM, just the waste of time of having to watch commercials.

  39. Due to not wanting to get banned, I can’t mention the certain name of a program that would err… undermine such protection. Viacom / SpikeTV learned this lesson hard when they chose to release the first episode of Afro Samurai in such a manner in 480p for free online with a Norbit advertisement. Not 2 hours later than its release were multiple torrents made available. Coincidentally, the other 4 episodes never made it online except to be viewed in a flash player.

    At this point though, I’ll mention this much, these downloads will probably be useless to most of the targeted audience of online viewers if they aren’t in a minimal of 480p. Since this is NBC we’re discussing, I will point out that most of the episodes of Heroes last season were released in 540p and 720p.