Tuesday, September 25, 2007

NBC: Must Ignore Television

NBC Shoots Itself In the Foot With New Free Download Service

The Peacock network, refusing to learn from The New York Times who just ended two years of a similar stupid idea, announced last week a new free download service.

Industry observers (me) hurt themselves laughing at the misplaced hubris and massive idiocy of NBC's planned "service."

Let's start with the corruption of our wonderful English language. "Service?" How in the hell is this a service? Never mind...

This brain-dead idea will do two, no three things.

1. It won't work. Stupidest idea ever. Well, not ever. I watched someone try and put toothpaste back in the tube once. But close.

2. It will piss people off. People want what they want when they want it. Can't get it? They'll blame NBC. They'll be aaaaangry. Angry customers stop watching everything, not just some things. Watch for the backlash.

3. It will make NBCs' ratings suck even more. I didn't know that was possible. Can we get a ruling over here? Can NBC be ranked along with cable instead of with the real networks? Or maybe cable-access? Don't give me shit about piracy NBC...you brought this on yourself. Promise me when you finally kill this "service" you'll fire the executive who approved it, not just the vice-president who sold you a fantasy.

Stupid, stupid, stupid. Didn't you idiots learn ANYTHING from Times Select?

Jeffrey McManus

NBC To Launch Loathsome, Defective Video Download Service

The other shoe has dropped in the Apple/NBC divorce. NBC announced plans to launch its own online video service this fall (which suggests to me that they've been working on the service for some time now — without a doubt they had this plan in their back pockets during their negotiations with Apple).

I can already tell you that the NBC store will suck because it does so much less (and, if NBC has their way, will eventually cost much more) than the iTunes store. The NY Times story describes it in these less-than-mouth-watering terms:
"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."
"Seven days on Windows-based PCs" is the tipoff here — the Times reporter doesn't say this explicitly because he doesn't want to damage our tender little brains, but seven days/Windows-only only suggests to me that NBC plans to use Windows Media DRM. This means that it won't work on any other operating system, which means NBC has denied itself access to 10-15% of the U.S. market (and even more overseas).

The fact that the NBC service will be "free" is what the NY Times writer chose to lead with. He buried the real story, which is that this is really a rental service, not a store — it will be a totally different business model from iTunes — more competitive with Blockbuster, really, than iTunes.

Here's the bit the writer really screwed up, though: the terms under which NBC wants to "sell" you videos are not just worse than iTunes, but worse than every single video delivery system that has ever existed. Consider the alternatives you have for watching recorded TV programming today:
  • Taping a TV show to a VHS cassette lets you watch it as much as you like forever and play it back on any VHS player anywhere.
  • Recording something to Tivo lets you watch it as much as you like forever on several different devices (if you have the right Tivo model).
  • Netflix lets you rent a DVD and keep it as long as you like.
  • Amazon Unbox lets you keep a pay-per-view program for 30 days before the movie kerplodes.
  • Even Blockbuster is a better deal, since they adopted the Netflix business model and don't charge late fees anymore.
It's not even worth my time to download a TV show for free if it's going to expire in just seven days, honestly.

Update: The Federal Government of News ran a second story about this with some more detail and some more humorous quotes about how scared the network is of nasty evil internet video pirates. This piece discloses NBC's fantasy price point for video downloads ($4.99!), suggests that they're going to support Macs and iPods Real Soon Now, and specifies that the free downloads will contain commercials that can't be skipped. Just what I was hoping for.
I can hardly type I'm so busy laughing.

Let's see if I've got this right... NBC is taking shows I want to see away from Apple iTunes where I could download them for $1.99 and watch them on my iPod, iPhone or computer (any computer, Apple, PC, Linux, whatever) the next morning, and the digital version belonged to me forever. Or...

Now I can download a shitty copy-protected version that only plays in their special player on PC's only. I have to go through their special program to download it. It doesn't work on iTunes or my iPod and iPhone or pretty much anything I want to watch it on.

(Fuck you NBC if you think I'm buying new hardware to watch Heroes. I mean, seriously. The Cheerleader can just die. I mean, whatever -- she's indestructible, right? Why the hell does she need saving anyway? Isn't this a fundamental plot hole?)

Worse -- the goddamn show STOPS WORKING after seven days. So it's free -- if you count typing up my broadband connection for 20 minutes to an hour as free, assuming NBC even manages to get that right, and right now I'm not cutting them any slack -- but then in seven days they pull the plug? "Come here come here come here get away get away get away." Oh NBC you prick teaser you. Seriously... go fuck yourself.

Even more so when now I read you're going to embed commercials into the feed which I can't skip. But when I paid iTunes $1.99 I got to keep the show forever without the commercials.

Look pal, I don't think you're clear on the concept. I want to watch what I want to watch when I want to watch it. It's my life and I'll be damned if some two-bit network is going to boss me around. Want to watch your market share drop even more? Keep it up. Want to sell your stupid shows? Let me buy them how I want to buy them.

And you're planning on charging up to $5 for various versions of your shows in different bundles? Yeah, that's going to work with iTunes showing the world what the base price for video should be.

There's a torrent feed a click away and everyone knows how to use it. What do you think this is...2005? We're happy to pay for our shows so long as you don't mess with us. You're messing with us, fool.

You can not stop the flow. Stop trying.

You gunky.

PS. Apparently I missed the Season Opener of Heroes last night, sitting here setting my posts up. And now, no iTunes at $1.99 Tuesday to download and watch the show whenever I want on my hardware forever.

FUCK YOU NBC. Fuck you again. Again. And again.

We're DONE. I actually liked that show. (A guilty pleasure.) And you want to hold me hostage to your bullshit. Na-uh. Shove it.

Seriously now, all joking aside. I learned in Houston, South Tuscon, Oakland, and starting at a very young age when I got the shit kicked out of me -- Don't give in to bullies. Ever.

We're over. Goodbye NBC.

PPS. Yo, Apple...

At $1.99 for television and no variable pricing to let the producers -- music companies, networks, movie studios, the folks in big power spots -- punish and control acts they don't like, I'll keep coming to you forever.

You're the artists' friend. Keep it up. Hold the freaking line.

For why variable pricing is bad and the evil NBC is up to, read the Weekend Technology Update.