NBC Direct Launches Free TV Show Downloads

    November 12, 2007

It’s been a big fortnight for NBC—first Hulu launched, now NBC Direct launches. Announced in September, NBC Direct is a service designed to allow viewers to download NBC shows for free.

Originally slated to launch in October, NBC Direct went live on Saturday (that’s November, for those of you who, like me, can never seem to remember what month/season it is).

With, of course, a couple catches, as we reported when they made the announcement:

NBC Direct will only offer Windows-compatible files. The shows will be available as soon as they air (unlike their Amazon deal, which will offer season premieres in advance), but the digital files will expire seven days after airing. The [included] advertising cannot be skipped.

And, according to Mashable, the live launch features even more catches:

First off, it’s Internet Explorer only, then once you download the player, if you don’t have the latest .NET framework, you’ll be downloading that also. Next: Windows Media needed a security update on top of it all. On a Mac? Sorry, can’t help. Outside of the US? You’re out of luck too.

. . . All episodes are available for only seven days after they initially air, and once you start watching your video you only have 48 hours to view it before it deletes. You can choose to subscribe to your favorite shows so you’ll get the new episodes automatically each week. . . .

Since this currently only works on Windows machines, and downloads to mobile devices haven’t arrived yet, there doesn’t seem to be much point to the venture, except for watching while offline – remember that NBC already lets you watch many shows online.

paidContent is similarly underwhelmed:

But all I can tell you about the actual quality of the video from NBC Universal is it has ads. That’s all I’ve been able to see—the same Bertolli ads repeating back-to-back-to-back. Not sure why; clicking on help first brought up an empty window, then no answer for this. The same thing happened with two different episodes. Others have seen actual shows so I’ll keep trying. If I were an average user, though, the fact that it’s a beta wouldn’t make it less frustrating, especially if I didn’t try to watch until I was offline and relying on it for entertainment.

paidContent did have one bit of good news: Mac support is expected early next year.

Of course, in light of the recent writers’ strike, if NBC runs out of content and their files all expire before they get their shows back in production again, they’re going to have some disappointed and unhappy consumers.