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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