NBCU to Test Its Own 'Direct' Download Service

NBC Universal announced today it's scheduling the testing of its own "NBC Direct" online download service this October. You might be thinking, didn't NBCU already plan something like that? Indeed it did, in a joint venture with News Corp. So this new service may need a different premise.

The Direct service won't be offering downloads to own, but just to watch - temporary downloads, but with a shelf life of one week. And each program is embedded with advertisements that cannot be skipped.

The initial version of the service will be offered only to Windows users browsing with Internet Explorer. This fact may raise some eyebrows in light of NBCU's recent withdrawal from iTunes. As it turns out, Mac OS X users will be excluded.

The company did say future incarnations will allow the transfer of files to portable media devices, as well as Mac support. Eventually, the service will allow podcast-style subscriptions, where new episodes of a user's chosen shows are automatically downloaded. But there is no mention yet of support for other browsers, namely Firefox.

Vivi Zigler, executive vice president of NBC Digital Entertainment, stated this afternoon, "With the creation of this new service, we are acknowledging that now, more than ever, viewers want to be in control of how, when and where they consumer their favorite entertainment."

But is NBC making its content too available? Also scheduled for beta this October is NBC Universal and News Corp.'s online venture Hulu, whose catalog is expected to include NBC content, but not NBC's alone. It is not certain if NBC Direct's launch means Hulu is going to undergo slight direction changes, or whether NBC is just stepping on its own feet.

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