back to article NBC unveils self-destructing, ad-addled anti-iTunes service

Less than a month after its very public breakup with Apple iTunes, NBC Universal has announced its own rights-restricting video download service. With the new NBC Direct, due for beta testing sometime in October, you'll have the power to download shows like "The Office" and "Heroes" immediately after they're broadcast on …


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  1. Adam Azarchs

    When you say self-destructing,

    you're referring to the service, yes? Basically they're offering a TiVo service which can't store stuff for more than a week. That seems... useless.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Overseas readers?

    "We're guessing that our overseas readers won't have access to NBC Direct."

    Er, I think you'll find that you and NBC are the ones who are overseas, Cade.

  3. Pooper Scooper

    More of the same

    'The company is also planning a "closed peer-to-peer network" for video downloads, and at some point, it may allow users to rent and purchase videos.'

    How exciting. Because if I'm downloading ad-ridden, DRM-ridden videos, I'll of course vastly prefer to waste my fellow consumers' upload bandwidth rather than NBC's.

    'The service isn't likely to be accessible outside the U.S. Our overseas always get the long the end of the stick. '

    And Linux users, of course. Windows-only for now, Mac later. As usual, us Linux users will have to turn "elsewhere" if we miss last night's episode of (some_show). Oddly, we'll get it in much more convenient formats and without ads and restrictions, too...

  4. Morely Dotes

    Any bets?

    Will it be 24 hours, or 48 hours after the official opening of NBCdirect before an open-source application is released to remove NBC's DRM and the self-destruct code?

    Idiots, all of them. Especially the writers, but that's another story.

  5. Graham Lockley

    They still dont get it

    "We're guessing that our overseas readers won't have access to NBC Direct. The service isn't likely to be accessible outside the U.S. Our overseas always get the long the end of the stick."

    Well a little bit of IP redirection/spoofing would probably sort that but really... who cares ?

    Firstly, I cant think of a single TV show that originated in the USA that Ive felt a desperate urge to watch as soon as its aired (actually very few Ive wanted to watch at all but thats another story)

    Secondly, if I did have such a desperate urge then lets consider the choices. I could download from the official NBC site and be able to watch ( for a week only ) an ad laced programme or I could download a pirated version via a torrent with no adverts and no expiry .

    Difficult choice ?

  6. Guy

    Wrong end of stick?

    Your bootnote "We're guessing that our overseas readers won't have access to NBC Direct. The service isn't likely to be accessible outside the U.S. Our overseas always get the long the end of the stick." Indicates that by not allowing it to be used outside the US their doing something special.

    Have you ever tried to access BBC content from outside the UK?

    It seems to be a universal truth for TV channels worldwide.

    I wish it wasn't of course, I'm an ex-pat and would love access to the BBC iPlayer, but I feel it just isn't to be, heck I'd pay my licence fee from over here to get access.

    As to not being interested in the NBC service, quite the opposite, I'd much rather watch a commercially supported LEGAL copy of a program, then an illegal download, but maybe I'm just weirdly moralistic that way. I would however like it if the episodes were available for the run of the season as opposed to the first week after broadcast, that way if a series comes out that I didn't watch the first few of, but everyone starts talking about, I can play catch up easily.

  7. Tom

    anti-iTunes.... another one.

    "In speaking with the paper, NBC was adamant that its chief iTunes concern has always been video piracy."

    Yes and Windows DRM used by unbox is not broken... Pull the other one. They must like the horrid end user license or something.

    Not that I really care since non of them are available in Canada.

  8. Richard Tobin

    Overseas readers?

    Since when were people in the UK your "overseas readers"? Or are you just republishing, unaltered, stories written for Americans?

  9. Philip Marshall

    Sounds like a copycat of the BBC's iPlayer

    The whole shebang of NBC's player is rather like the BBC's very own iPlayer.

    Similarities are:

    *the 7 day limit

    *the possible use of Kontiki, so it can't be used on a Vista, OSX or a Linux computer

    *Forced pieces, the BBC demands you watch the ident before the programme, with NBC, it is commericals

    *Possible banning of those dirty foreigners from watching the programme.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    when did the 'rest of the world outside of the US' become 'overseas' to El Reg???

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    "We're guessing that our overseas readers won't have access to NBC Direct. The service isn't likely to be accessible outside the U.S."

    Overseas readers of who are in the US will probably have access to it, though.

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    New Shows aren't...

    Which is what all this was about. NBC wanted to pull their content out MID SEASON once they had got their HULU service up and Apple said bog off.

  13. Charlie Clark Silver badge

    It's a great idea

    Even if the show can be picked up off a torrent or the donkey people will always prefer convenience. It will attract those who don't want to dip their toes into the murky waters of P2P and everyone is used to adverts. Point, click and watch "for free".

  14. Cade Metz (Written by Reg staff)

    My Whereabouts

    I would like to point out that, as my byline indicates, I am sitting in San Francisco. I would also like to point out that The Reg has more readers in the US than in the UK,

    I'm not necessarily happy about either, but that's the way it is,

    Cade Metz

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Given the financial realities of TV programme production, this seems like quite a reasonable service frankly.


  16. Michael Tripper


    like someome is not gonna break whatever drm they build..."disappear" from hard-drives - what a farce....

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I think

    ...I'll continue to program my non-TiVo DVR to record what I wish, then watch them and skip commercials as I please... Or stream them anywhere I wish... At least until there's a "NBC Grab" plugin for Firefox.

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    BBC and NBC are not that similar

    <quote> Have you ever tried to access BBC content from outside the UK? </quote>

    Thats because since they are funded by the british people for the british people they are not allowed to show content outside the uk unless they make money. In the uk however its all free free free, unless you own a tv, in which case you help fund the free world service and an ad free news website that apparently leans slightly to the left, a bit like bill clinton, but not as cheap.

  19. Scott

    Stevo couldn't care less.

    NBC - a joke in itself.

    Universal - absolute duckheads for thinking they could go alone from iTunes.

    Like some comments already made, it doesn't matter WHAT it is, there will ALWAYS be a way to circumvent it - so long as its software-based.

    Here's an "idea" - have the full-featured tv ep on the site and pay a fee. Say, $10/mth. The shows stay on the server for three weeks and you stream the tv eps. Here's the kicker - NO ads. And make it internationally accessible.

    Even then, there are software tools to capture the stream and "rip" the vision.

    My point? Going it alone exposes you to certain risks and no matter what happens, DRM (in ANY from) will ALWAYS be circumvented. For NBC/Universal, their piracy headache is about to get a whole lot worse.

    And by the way, Steve Jobs couldn't care less.

  20. Richard

    Not that bad when you think about it.

    I've watched a number of shows online.

    Noteably "Day Break" which while it went off the air, did manage to have the remaining shows up online.

    (Thanks ABC). I was unhappy it was canceled, but at least I was able to go online and see the full show.

    I'll get the DVD when it comes out since I want to see it full screen.

    The thing is, they have non-skippable ads, but they are short in duration and not as annoying. A free download which self

    destructs or simply streams is not a bad thing. It's only if

    you have to pay that it becomes a real issue, assuming that

    you can go back and see stuff you've seen without having to

    endure the ad twice.

    They have a good model of that on ABC. You have to stream

    the ad one time, but then the bar along the bottom extends

    backwards and you can view it w/o the ad. So, you can

    either jump ahead to the ads, then turn off the sound or look

    away, or you can wade through them. They were short

    enough it was not a problem at all. I think all of the breaks

    were less than a minute long, much better than the 5+ on the


  21. yeah, right.


    Last I checked, there are no oceans between the USA and Canada, but I'm betting Canada won't be able to access those shows either. Not that watching US based advertising in Canada would do anyone any good.

    Of course, they have the advantage in Canada that downloading music for personal use is legal at the moment (paid for by a surtax on blank media). I don't think the "downloading video" has been tested in court yet though.

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Right. That has always been the case for overseas people, especially those in the Asian nations that has TV stations that are run by duckjobs and tosspots.

    *sigh* the things I'd do to get back some of the shows they cancelled. They're absolute nutjobs I tell you.

  23. Chris

    Still a rip-off

    Even at $1.99 per episode, it's a huge rip-off. If they actually broadcast a show I was interested in, I would watch it when broadcast (if possible), and then wait until it comes out on DVD and pay the $40-45 for the DVD set. Better picture quality, audio quality, extras, etc. And I have to admit, I still don't understand the concept of watching your favorite television shows on your computer monitor. I would much rather view them on my 52" television (even if it is old-school, non-HD, rear-projection) than on my 19" monitor. And I *really* don't understand trying to watch video on a 1.5 to 2.5" iWhatever or mobile phone screen.

  24. s. pam Silver badge

    IMF mission Mr. Phelps?

    Should you or any member of your iTunes team be discovered....this video will self-distruct in 5 seconds. Good luck Mr. NBC

  25. DJGM

    Re ... What Philip Marshall said about BBC iPlayer . . .

    QUOTE . . . the BBC demands you watch the ident before the programme . . . UNQUOTE

    Not true ... play the files you've downloaded from the BBC iPlayer, directly in WMP, and the program will start playing immediately you don't get to see the BBC ident.

  26. Blain Hamon

    Sounds like a re-run.

    > Windows-only for now, Mac later.

    Seen this before. When it's said, it's either empty words, in which later means never, or it's a port so horrid that it might as well never been released.

    > Steve Jobs couldn't care less.

    Spot on. iTMS isn't competing with subscriptions/playsforsure/zune. It's not even in the same league. When he does compare with something, iTMS is completing against P2P, saying, "Ours cost $1, but the time saved versus trying to track down the song on bittorrent makes it well worth it."

    Until NBC et al realize that they can never complete on price, that ease of use and quality is the ONLY way they can compete, it's going to be more of the same.

  27. Vladimir Plouzhnikov

    Self destruct

    Mr Vivi Zigler and his service will self-destruct quietly in 12 months.

    Good riddance.

    Of course Mr Vivi Zigler can have all members of his extended family dowload every show like crazy to milk the advertisers. In that case Mr Vivi Zigler and his service will self-destruct after SEC will catch up with them.

  28. Ian Yates

    I'm sorry?!

    "Kind of like ‘Mission: Impossible,’ only I don’t think there would be any explosion and smoke,"

    He "doesn't think" there will be.... anybody else concerned by this?

  29. Colin Jackson


    >"The Office," "Heroes," and other inane shows

    Peasant :p

  30. andy


    I'm sitting here in a hotel in Mozambique listening to BBC Radio 4 via their website right now, not problem there.

    In many years of travel the only restrictions I have found when listening to the BBC "overseas" is when they are broadcasting something for which the rights are sold by territory, e.g. sporting contests, where the BBC is forbidden by contract to allow listeners outside the UK to participate.

    Oh yes, and the UK TV licence fee doesn't pay for the BBC World Service either - that's paid for by the Foreign Office - in other words out of your and my taxes.

  31. Kenny Millar

    Get with it

    When will NBC and the rest get with it?

    The reason people pirate video etc is because we WANT it but it is OVERPRICED therefore we STEAL it.

    Wake up and smell the fecking coffee NBC, it's time you offered the people what we want, (DRM-free content to keep) at a price that is fair ($1.99) then we'll flipping well buy it without any problems!

    Get real and reap the rewards.

  32. Ash

    @Everyone who commented on the "Long stick" comment

    Yes, the overseas readers get the LONG end of the stick, being the better deal.

    He's refering to the Americans.

    Apologies if anyone covered this before me.

  33. John Latham



    Since you're writing for an internationally-read UK-based site, you should avoid terms like "overseas".

    I'm not sure why you'd want to use such a term anyway, since it excludes Canadians, South Americans etc (not to mention Europeans and Asians when the Bering Strait freezes over next ice age).

    And it makes you sound like a hick.


  34. Nev

    Damn it

    iTunes works fine outside of the US for video download. Amazon's Unbox doesn't. Do I really have to start paying money to that dirtbag Murdoch again!?! FFS!

  35. Ian Michael Gumby

    NBC has been self destructing for a long time...

    Here in the states, Comcast has been offering video on demand for a couple of years now.

    Some of it even in HiDef and not just movies, but premium channel's series and even the regular broadcast like CBS and NBC.

    CBS was smart. They didn't charge the consumer for watching the show. It was free with minimal commercial interruptions. Usually a Car commercial and then promos for their other series.

    NBC wanted you to pay for this. I never did try it out so I don't know if you also got some or any commercials with this price.

    At the same time, Comcast offers a DVR so you can watch your favorites later.

    So again NBC misses the boat with their attempts to drive revenue rather than get a higher viewer count which then translates in to higher ad sales and more interest in to their shows.

    Then at the end of the season, they may have a larger audience who might buy their season boxed set for an outrageous amount of money knowing that in a couple of years, the shows will go in to syndication on one of those 100's of channels that regurgitate junk....

    See the point?

    NBC == short sighted quick hits so management can achieve short term goals/bonuses.

    CBS == slightly more intelligent outlook.

    Oh and to the view who questions why watch a show on a 1.5" portable phone?

    You got me. Unless you're obsessively hooked on a soap opera and your company monitors your computer usage...

  36. Anthony


    When you develop a service or a product that makes money, everyone else suddenly thinks they could do the same as well. Zune anybody?

  37. Harry Harcort

    Sky Plus or Virgin thingy

    Sorry, but have these companies not missed the boat by miles are they really that far behind the rest of the world.

    There is such a thing as a Sky Plus box or the Virgin thingy, TiVo in the UK and US which allows us to do all this and skip the adverts anyway, gee how many more ways do we need to be offered our "favourite TV" programs...

    Why would I want to watch it on my PC / Laptop anyway when I want to sit on the comfort of my sofa with a remote in my hand.....

  38. Paul

    Rather silly

    If I want to watch a show "time shifted" I'll record it on the trusty old VCR, to watch at *my* discretion, without ads I'm forced to watch, while sitting on the couch nice and comfy, on a decent sized screen with good sound.

    Even with VHS "quality", that's still better than a self-destructing, forced-adware download that I have to go sit at the computer to watch.

    Those who actually care enough about TV to spend the money on stuff like DVR (offered by every satellite provider and probably even every Mom-and-Pop cable outfit over here, or there's always TiVo) have it even easier. You're not seriously going to convince them to go squint at their computer screen for 60 minutes (it would be 45 or less, but they can't skip the ads!) when they probably have an 80" plasma widescreen HDTV with full surround sound set up in perfect alignment with the best recliner in the house.

    In the rare event I like the series enough to watch it over and over again, I'll buy it on DVD. Judging by the number of such DVDs on the store shelves, this is a popular option.

    Basically I don't see how this can appeal to anyone, except maybe those folks who have a pressing need to watch shows for free on a tiny screen. If that's a sizeable enough market to make this work, then I fear for the future of humanity... :-P

  39. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @Get With It

    "The reason people pirate video etc is because we WANT it but it is OVERPRICED therefore we STEAL it."

    Free is overpriced?

  40. Dave Murray

    Re: What?

    >>"The Office," "Heroes," and other inane shows


    >Peasant :p

    If you like The Office, especially the US version, then you're the peasant.

    It truely is mindless entertainment for the moronic masses.

  41. Alistair

    self destructing media on your windows box

    And what happens the first time this virus misfires and deletes someones repository of home videos?

  42. Jim


    "Free is overpriced?"

    What NBC is offering is not "free", if it were then there would be zero adverts. Adverts are the "price" you pay for "free".

    A year or so ago, I got chatting to what turned out to be a fairly senior droid at NBC. All he talked about was advertising revenue. He seemed to be of the impression that, rather than a provider of entertainement, NBC's role was as a generator of ad revenue. He didn't seem to get my reason for not owning a tv at all. That being that US tv is so ad focused that it makes my brain hurt trying to concentrate on the actual entertainment. His only reply was "but who is going to pay for the programming?", a fair point were the world really to be simply black and white.

  43. James Condron


    Right, and i'm sure more americans know who the Queen is (since theres a damn sight more of you) but does that make her the Queen of America?

  44. Neil Barnes Silver badge


    I've made the point before, and no doubt I'll make it again... but the BBC is the *only* broadcaster in the world which is in the business of providing entertainment to viewers/listeners. All the rest are in the business of providing viewers to advertisers. Anyone who thinks broadcasting is free doesn't look at the advertising revenue figures.

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