NBC to lauch free video download service

HuluPretty much every TV network and its sister offers up a way to watch popular shows for free online. Just hop on over to a network website and you'll find a way to watch recent episodes of everything from Heroes to Girlfriends. The episodes are typically free, but include advertising. And not an assortment of commercials like you get on broadcast TV. No, we're talking about a single ad which plays about 8 times per episode. Not that we have a problem with the repeated redundant repetition of a sponsor's message.

You can also download many of the same shows for a fee from services like iTunes and Amazon Unbox. But NBC is preparing to launch a new service that's a combination of the two. NBC Direct will let you download videos to your computer for free. They'll include advertising, and you'll only be able to watch for up to a week after a program's original air date. But you can download a video and watch it on the go when you don't have an active internet connection. No buffering needed. It actually sounds a bit like the BBC's iPlayer.

The move is a little surprising. Or at least the timing is. NBC recently announced that it was terminating its contract to sell movies through Apple's iTunes service. But the company struck a deal to offer shows through Amazon Unbox. The new download service could eat into revenue from Unbox video sales. Perhaps the network is hoping that advertising can be more profitable than video sales.

NBC is also working with News Corp to launch a new online video service called Hulu. While it's not entirely clear whether Hulu will feature full length episodes or just video clips and exclusive content, it now seems like NBC is a bit all over the place when it comes to its streaming/downloadable media strategy. But since nobody quite knows what the future holds for the medium, maybe it's not a bad idea to have all the bases covered.

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