NBC Direct Beta Now Open: It's No Hulu

Only slightly behind schedule, NBC Direct opened in beta over the weekend. The service promises time-sensitive, ad-supported versions of NBC's biggest hits for free, although the phrase "For a Limited Time" is taken quite literally.

NBC Direct was announced at about the same time as Hulu launched its beta, and did not promise anything radically different from that service. In fact, it promised much less.

Hulu offers prime-time shows from NBC and Fox as well as content from E!, FUEL TV, SciFi Channel, and USA Networks. By comparison, NBC Direct offers under 20 programs, some of which only come in two-minute digests, excluding pre-roll advertisement.

Furthermore, NBC Direct is only available through a Windows Media Player- and Internet Explorer-enabled client, and the most current .NET Framework is required as well. Episodes are downloaded to the client and available for 48 hours after the show has aired. While a unique take on protection, this method makes possible the unfortunate situation of immediately-deleted content for those who download a show too late.

NBC's motives for creating the service are still unclear: There is no mobile support, and most of the programs are available in a more convenient fashion with Hulu. What looked like a bad idea from the beginning may not have yet received the elbow grease it needs to become a plausible service. At least testers will have ample feedback to supply NBC with during this beta period.

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