November 10, 2007 |
NBC has now officially launched the download service for its television programming, known as NBC Direct, although initial plans had called for an October launch. Now, at no cost, anyone can download full episodes of a wide variety of NBC programs including Heroes, The Office, Bionic Woman, and Las Vegas among others.
The service is available as a public beta and requires Windows Media Player as well as Internet Explorer in order to watch videos in the service's custom player.
What I once saw as a potentially popular service that customers would love because episodes would be free has now turned into a sour development that will prohibit use by many users because of its many limitations.
NBC Direct has already been stocked full of episodes for viewers to download, after first downloading the necessary software to play the files. Once that is done, users can browse and obtain any video they choose and also subscribe to favorite shows, but there are a few catches. Videos must be watched within 48 hours after they are downloaded, and the embedded advertisement within the videos cannot be skipped by viewers.
Although the video library is well-furnished, don't expect all videos to remain available for download forever. NBC will limit availability to just 7 days after an episode's air date before it will be removed from the database. Why? Probably so as not to harm sales of future DVD season releases of shows by making all episodes available for free online. That's just my guess though, as there could be any number of reasons.
As it stands right now, only those PCs running Windows will be able to access NBC Direct, and many of those will require additional downloads (on top of the video player download) to get the latest version of Microsoft's .NET framework as well as the latest security updates for Windows Media Player.
So let's recap.. No one using a Mac can use it, no one who prefers Firefox and shudders at the thought of using IE can get in, and no one who's PC is out of date can get in without first updating. Oh yeah, I almost forgot that no one who lives outside of the United States has access either.
Right now, NBC Direct should re-strategize and develop a better, more universal service. There is no incentive to use NBC Direct because viewing periods are limited, and anyone (using any browser in any country) can just stream the episode online for free. NBC offers online viewing on its own site, and even those who haven't received a Hulu invite yet can access its content through the service's many partners.