NBC to launch crappiest ever video download site

Boing Boing reader Jeffrey McManus says,
In October, NBC will launch a craptastic DRM-laden video download site that will let people do less than virtually any video delivery system ever devised. This NY Times article announces the new "store" without mentioning that the reason these movies people download will self-destruct after seven days is because they're wrapped in Windows Media DRM.
Link to Jeffrey's blog post. A related item on the television biz blog NewTeeVee questions what the heck will happen to Hulu, a joint online video venture NBC and NewsCorp announced not long ago: Link.


  1. I’m confused about a couple things.

    1) Why is the word “buy” in there at all? The videos are free! There’s no buying at all!

    2) This passage confuses me: “In the NY Times’ outstanding tradition of technology journalism, they announce the new “store” without mentioning that the movies that customers “buy” will self-destruct after seven days thanks to Windows Media DRM.

    But… from TFA…

    “The NBC service, called NBC Direct, will begin a testing period in October with plans to be operational in November. The service will allow customers to download full episodes of NBC shows for seven days on Windows-based PCs. The file will expire after the seven days.

    I don’t understand!

  2. @Pete: (1) you’re correct, there’s no “buy.” The readers’ statement has been corrected. (2)The readers constructed this poorly — the missing detail here was Windows DRM as the culprit not the fact that the files are disabled after 7 days.

  3. Being that it’s free, this seems to be a non-issue. I’m not buying anything or claiming ownership of anything. DRM the hell out of it. I can’t be ripped off if I haven’t given up anything.

  4. So wait, instead of being able to pay money for TV shows on iTunes which I could watch on my Mac or a PC if I had one, I now can’t watch them on my Mac and NBC gets no money? Rock!

  5. @redrighthand — fair enough, but I think the argument here is more “this will sure be crappy,” not “NBC is stealing from its customers.”

    The standard experience we’ve grown to expect online is that whatever you download, free or otherwise, remains available with no self-destruct date.

    It’s absolutely reasonable for people to consider anything less than that to be a sub-optimal, or “crappy,” experience.

  6. What does the National Biscuit Company have that we would want on the web, anyway? I like their vanilla wafers, but beyond that. . . ?

    Really, though, does anyone here watch TV?

  7. It doesn’t matter if the content is free, it’s lame that the files self destruct. It’s an idea thought up by some stuffy boardroom coot sucking on an oxygen tank.

    Maybe they’ll go the route of the New York Times and put up a paywall for their archived content. Then after they sink a bunch of money into all this DRM and paywall nonsense they’ll realize that they’ve been actively reducing their number of viewers.

    Then.. when it’s just about too late for big television they’ll reluctantly release their entire archives as free downloads and go back to making money the way television has historically made money, through advertising.

  8. The content is free for now:

    “But NBC intends to transform the service into a model similar to iTunes by the middle of 2008 — that is, consumers will pay NBC directly to download episodes of the shows. “We did this to eliminate the middleman,” said Jeff Gaspin, the president of NBC’s digital division.”

  9. I have this memory lodged somewhere deep in the back of my brain (from when I used to watch TV) of the David Lynch mini-series “Wild Palms.” There was this scene where it was explained that the villainous virtual reality media distributor was “diluting” the images on the discs delivered to one particular addict, so that he could only see his virtual love interest a few times before he had to go back and get another copy.

    I remember thinking “but they couldn’t do that – it’s digital!” Yes, yes, very funny in retrospect, but apparently Lynch (or whoever penned this dark vision of 2007) had the future pegged a lot better than we thought.

    But on the bright side, at least Windows DRM doesn’t lead to dementia, hallucinations and death.


  10. M (6), it’s gotten a lot better. Some parts of the industry have figured out that good writing will pull in an audience. Also, with DVD and online distribution, it stops being something you’re obliged to watch at a certain time each week, and becomes something more like a novel.

  11. Why is it all about iTunes and iPod? Seriously, some of us decided that Apple was just as harsh a master as any other a long time ago. NBC isn’t right going their own way, but the proprietary platform of iTunes/iPod isn’t the right answer either.

  12. NY Times has CORRECTED the story.

    NBC plans to charge a fee for every download, starting in November, AFTER the “initial beta test” of the site.

    In addition, NBC plans to insert commercials which cannot be bypassed in every download.

    Summary: You will pay a few dollars to watch an episode of a program AND you will still get stuck with the commercials too.

  13. I wonder if this will work like the time-bombed shareware of yesteryear, where all you had to do was adjust the system clock to have the software work again.

  14. Wow, saw this same story from Reuters just minutes before looking at it here. Screw objective journalism. Sometimes you need the truth!

    Of course, when I saw “free” I knew the cost was deadly DRM and Windows only. Screw ’em!

  15. Looks like Jeffrey is less accurate than the NYT. iPods are something I shall never own, itunes is ok, like the price, hate the small resolution. Its not like I give a crap about Apple either. Big rah Jeffrey.

  16. Let the stupids infest their computers with DRM.
    Also: Even if it’s free, it’s crap. And if enough people jump on this – cuz’ it’s free, doncha know – the level of manure they will endure on their HDs will be lowered. And suddendly paying 5 bucks to rent a self destructing copy of the newest episode of Wife Swap won’t seem so bad.

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