NBC Direct Download Service Launches, Mainly Serves Bertolli Ads

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NBC and Apple had a falling-out earlier this year. Apple wanted to keep selling NBC shows like they had for more than a year, NBC wanted Apple to hand over billions in iPod sales for reasons only Jeff Zucker can fathom. In the fall-out, NBC pulled its content from iTunes, promising to roll out their own downloadable video application, offering full episodes of TV shows just as good as iTunes. They call it NBC Direct, and it came out today. So, is it an NBC-only iTunes killer? Um…no. Not even close.

But first, let’s pause for a commercial. Do you like pasta? Do you like NBC? Well, you’re in luck, because Bertolli Pasta is delicious — and all over this application. Now, back to your previously scheduled post.

First, the good news: It totally plays NBC shows. Yep, it plays the like nobody’s business. All day long, and interrupted frequently by advertisements for Bertolli Frozen Pasta Dinners. The picture quality is quite decent, at least on par with current iTunes downloads. Bertolli.

Now, the bad news. How much time do you have? There are a lot of deficiencies right now, some of which NBC claims they will fix real soon, and a lot of which are deliberate cripplings. I’ll use bullets, because there’s a lot, most after the jump.

  • NBC Direct is actually a shell on top of Windows Media Player. Yep, not actually its own application. It’s built on OpenCASE, Extend Media’s super-locked down video platform. Slogan: “Automation, Ingestion, Encryption.” Yep, that’s how consumers think about video, all right.
  • NBC Direct has no support for Macs — but NBC recommends Boot Camp. How thoughtful! I have a PC from work, though, so I put it through its paces.
  • Bertolli pasta is just like real, homemade pasta — only frozen, and on NBC Direct! Yum-o-licious.
  • Installation is hell. You must download the application from Internet Explorer for Windows. Even though the program works without a web browser once installed, you can’t download with Firefox. NO SENSE. Then, because of its ties to Media Player, you’ll likely have to upgrade Media Player — NBC Direct was created with Vista in mind — genius! Then, after all of that, it’s capable of playing Bertolli commercials. But if you want to actually watch a TV show, you’ll probably need to launch Explorer and install another DRM fix — because you can’t spell Windows without “Service Pack.”
  • Content is limited. No, make that pathetic. Only five TV shows, “30 Rock,” “Friday Night Lights,” “The Office,” “Bionic Woman, ” and “Life”, are presently available. You can download their most recent episodes, or set up a weekly subscription to get new episodes as posted. I presume these are all of the NBC-Universal produced series, as opposed to all shows airing on NBC. But I’m not a TV executive; why the heck do I care who made the show? If I want an NBC show, it would be nice to download anything they, you know, air.
  • You have 48 hours before self-destruction. All TV shows downloaded from NBC Direct self-destruct within 48 hours of when you start to watch it. That’ll stop you from peskily re-watching a TV show you like, interrupted by Bertolli commercials as you go.
  • All episodes vanish, both from the application and from your computer, within 7 days of their original airdates. No matter what. Exactly what I always wanted! I want the convenience of being told when to watch TV!
  • NBC Direct supports absolutely no media players. Or CD, DVD, or external hard drive back-up. I hope you like watching TV shows on your Windows PC!
  • There’s a writer’s strike on. So this should work for, oh, about a week or two.

There you have it. A truly wondrous piece of software for Windows only. Don’t worry, Mac users, NBC promised that in early 2008, you, too, can get NBC Direct! For now, we’ll just have to sit here and be jealous of our Windows-using brethren.

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32 responses to “NBC Direct Download Service Launches, Mainly Serves Bertolli Ads”

  1. wasabi doggy says:

    It is absolutely crazy to me that NBC would choose to do this instead of doing both an iTunes offering and NBC Direct. Clearly cutting off their nose to spite their face here, and that’s an ugly sight.

    Enjoyed the review though …

  2. Dean Ricciardi says:

    Have you watched any shows on the ABC web site? The player is embedded in your browser, but at every point in the show where there would be regular commercials in the on-air broadcast, there is one 30-second ad. It varies from viewing to viewing, but it’s generally the same ad each time there’s a break. Maybe Bertolli is just the first sponsor they’ve signed up for this service.

    Not that I’m defending the service–it sounds like exactly what NBC deserves for being so short-sighted and greedy.

  3. Austin says:

    Looks like torrent sites are going to have more traffic…

  4. Matt C says:

    This is a classic case of NBC throwing their rattle out of their pram. Upset over Apple horrifyingly keeping their own profits for themselves and not sharing it with the nice people at NBC, Jeff has decided not to play anymore and has taken his ball home. He’s made his own software to compete with Apple. “That’ll show ’em”, he says, “we’ll take all of the profits they owe us now and more because our product is better than theirs, has more content than theirs, can perform on more OS platforms than theirs! Mwah-hahahaha! Eh? What’s that you say? Oh.” Idiot.

  5. th truth says:

    im not in until they let me watch all the episodes of Joey.

  6. Andrew DK says:

    Over the course of time watching what Apple has done with iTunes and the iTMS I have come to the conclusion that content providers fall into the same class of sub-human as politicians do.

    Their ignorance coupled with their gigantic egos combine to make for the most glaring and shameless examples of inefficiently.

    Apple can do it better than you.
    Now close your eyes, and repeat that to yourself over and over until you finally achieve nirvana like the rest of us.

  7. Cameron Talley says:

    Does it have closed captioning? As a hearing impaired user, If not, I don’t care and never will. Apple, PLEASE get the TV show owners to include captions in their iTunes downloads! I know iTunes has the capability now…

  8. Jake says:

    Hi everyone, I am currently interviewing tech blogs and the users who use them. I have created my own blog, blogonbloggs.blogspot.com and welcome anyone and everyone to visit and comment and help me with my interviews. If anyone is open to answering questions about why they read Cult of Mac or any other great tech blog, please contact me as I would greatly appreciate your help.

    Thanks
    Jake

  9. David says:

    For the most part this is nothing new compared to what NBC was already offering on their website using flash. I know this because when I moved & didn’t get my TiVo hooked up for a couple weeks I had to go to NBC.com to catch up on the new season of the office. It had all the same features, including the Bertolli commercials!

  10. Joseph says:

    When I try to play a video I just get a message that says: “This program is not available in your region”. Unfortunately for Hulu, bittorrent seems to think otherwise.

  11. Sonj says:

    My hat’s off to Apple for maintaining their pricing a format in iTunes– it works, it’s reliable, easy to use, great quality, content is formated and used the way it was intended.

    Mr. Zucker what were you thinking?

    You’d have done better demanding the TV manufacturer’s pay NBC as it’s more reasonable to believe I bought my TV to watch NBC than my iPod! Why don’t you go after them? Really. Egg becomes you.

  12. Blackdoor says:

    Like the Last post, I too am out of the US region needed for viewing. However, I am lucky enough to have them let me watch the commercials!

  13. Andrew DK says:

    This guy gets it:

  14. Andrew DK says:

    Aw, crap.
    That’s not MY website…
    Here:
    http://www.macnn.com/articles/

  15. Doug S. says:

    It’s not so much that Edgar Bronfman gets it; it’s more that it looks like he’s finally figured out that it’s time to wave the white flag (unlike Zucktard). :-)

  16. rocketjam says:

    Dean said,

    “Have you watched any shows on the ABC web site? The player is embedded in your browser, but at every point in the show where there would be regular commercials in the on-air broadcast, there is one 30-second ad”

    But that’s not quite right. I’ve watched two or three episodes of Lost on ABC’s website. There are three 30-second commercials for the entire episode. That would be a minute and a half worth of commercials for an episode versus the 10 minutes or so that you get watching it on TV.