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NBC Wants You to be a Criminal

In addition to full episodes of their TV Shows, NBC’s website has lots of web only content. All of that content is blocked from outside the US. To me this sends one message unmistakable message. Look elsewhere. Of course the other popular service, Hulu, is blocked as well. That means if I want to see shows like Heroes in English I have one choice download them or stream them from sketchy websites. NBC clearly doesn’t want me as the legitimate viewer I am all too willing to be. In the long run, if a show is good enough I’ll buy or rent the DVD’s in a year or so, but that doesn’t help for web only content.

My question: when companies like NBC tally up their piracy stats to lobby for more protections do they also count the people downloading and streaming content that is otherwise impossible for them to get? My guess is they do. It seems disingenuous to me, they should be putting these “criminal acts” in a different pile. Maybe call that pile, “the people who want to be our customers but we’re too short-sided to let that happen and besides we’d make more money and wouldn’t have as much to complain about pile.” Or you could simply label this group, “product of failing business model.”

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Tentative Review of Hulu

NBC broke away from iTunes to offer its shows through Amazon (which only works on a Windows PC— no iPods etc) and through their new venture Hulu. It is a flash based video offering meant to compete with YouTube (event though YouTube was never meant to compete with NBC). The folks at MacRumors offered a glimpse of the new service, which is still in private beta. You can watch (sort of) an episode of The Office from there, as well as a few other shows like Airwolf.

At first glance there will be plenty of commercial breaks (indicated by dots along the video’s timeline), something I’m not interested in. But more importantly, the video stutters to the point that it is not watchable.

So far it looks as if NBC has shoved away iTunes and YouTube for crap. Viewers don’t want to be hassled with shoddy services and they don’t like having to go to many different places to find those services. This move is bound to push more folks to the legal use of DVR and the (likely) illegal use of bit torrents. Apple offered NBC a revenue stream, free promotion, free bandwidth and an attractive and simple delivery package— it is hard to see how spending hundreds of millions of dollars to try and feebly push customers back into an old business model will work out well.

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boneheads, business, mac, technology

NBC Wants People to Stop Buying TV Shows

On the heels of iTunes getting rid of DRM in music NBC says they want more. NBC would also like to re-negotiate pricing and bundle shows. So far NBC has declined to renew its contract with Apple.

First issue: pricing. The pricing is fine. No one else really thinks it is too much or too little. Done.

Second issue: bundling. Users don’t want to be forced to buy a bundle and won’t like a change that removes a freedom of choice that they once had.

Third issue: DRM. Okay, more and more people are starting to agree that DRM is bad for consumers. Just look at Microsoft’s PlayForSure (which even the Zune doesn’t support) and Sony’s ATRAC (which has been dumped, leaving owners of those music file holding the bag). DRM limits how legitimate owners can use their purchased content and creates a situation in which it is likely that users will be locked out of different devices or just plain lock out of ever using the content again. The good thing is that many people just won’t purchase DRM burdened files. A user on one forum wrote a response to NBC’s demands:

Either I can buy a season of Scrubs and the Office when it starts again or I can find it in some other manner that will not benefit NBC at all.

Your call, NBC.

This exemplifies the main issue with DRM, that is that it agitates the problem it seeks to solve. By demanding an increased cost and adding DRM NBC simply pushes customers towards peer2peer sites and of course that will be far worse than unbundled slightly DRM’ed $1.99 TV episodes.

update: NBC and Apple are splitting ways. Apple has announced that they will not carry NBC shows because NBC wanted each episode to sell for $4.99 which is more than double what they cost now. We’ll see how NBC likes it when their own service fails and people turn to the peer2peer networks. It will be especially interesting to see how this effects the popularity of its shows, considering it was iTunes that saved the award winning show The Office from certain death.

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Andy Barker P.I.

NBC is doing something new. No, it isn’t a a new version of Law & Order— it’s something really new. They’re putting a new mid-season replacement show out onto the interweb before airing even one episode on TV. That’s right, Andy Baker P.I. is available for download on iTunes and streaming for free on nbc.com.

The show which stars Andy Richter and is co-created by Connan O’Brien is actually pretty funny. It isn’t great TV, but then again most TV isn’t. It is an original concept and it made me laugh. I’d be interested in seeing if it can sustain.

andy-barker-p-iThe idea of putting all the episodes online (there are only six since it’s a mid-season replacement) is interesting. I can only assume it is a move to make sure the show has a chance to be seen considering this is a time when no one really expects to see new shows. But I wonder if it will backfire. I’ve already watched the entire season and I can’t say that I am interested in watching them on TV where I’ll have to sit through painful commercial breaks.

It also makes me wonder if NBC is considering a day when they will try to take advantage of the internet more. Testing the waters of web only content? It may be a little early to go that road, but I wonder if maybe they are interested in seeing where they get more viewers.

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