I’m toying with the radical idea of boycotting NBC. That means no more of “The Office,” “Heroes,” “Chuck”, or any of the other shows I watch from NBC Universal.
Why? I’m pissed. I’m pissed because in the digital age networks should deliver their content the way we want it, not just how they want to do it. For some, that means watching shows through the networks’ ad-supported streaming Websites. For others, we’ll pay for the shows we watch through download services such as iTunes or Amazon Unbox and watch it on whatever devices we own — AppleTV, iPods, TiVo, DVRs, Play for Sure devices.
The technology is here to do both, to give consumers multiple choices for how they view network content, fitting their busy mobile lives. Instead, NBC Universal wants to control our entire viewing experience.
NBC over the weekend picked up its ball, stomped off the iTunes playground, and who knows if it will ever return. After a very public rift, NBC and Apple are split, finished, kaput — for now. Their initial contact expired at the end of November, and true to its word NBC pulled all of its content from the iTunes store.
That not only means programs from NBC are gone but also from CNBC, the Sci-Fi Channel (no more “Battlestar Gallactica” and “Eureka”), Telemundo, or USA (“Monk”, “Psyche”).
The contract between NBC and Apple could not be renegotiated because NBC wanted to increase the cost per episode (from $1.99 to as much as $4.99), while Apple refused to budge, contending that $1.99 is the sweet spot consumers are willing to pay for content they can watch for free on live or recorded television.
Instead of iTunes, NBC wants to direct us to its own download service — NBC Direct, which is available only for Windows computers using Windows Media Player, and Hulu, the joint venture between NBC and News Corp. (Fox). Fantastic! No complaints from me.
But just give us the other choices we know you have at your disposal. In fact, digital downloading from NBC existed before NBC Direct and Hulu. NBC used to offer more than 1,500 hours of programming on iTunes, making up nearly 40 percent of the store’s content. My interest in “The Office” and “30 Rock” — as well as the interest of many dedicated fans — was born out of legal digital downloading.
So now NBC says I can only download its programs through NBC Direct and watch it according to NBC’s rules and schedule. I can also download Peacock shows from Amazon Unbox, but it’s Windows-only and I am limited to certain Plays For Sure devices for mobile playback, totalling maybe 10 percent of the portable device market
With the current writer’s strike, I can cheat and not make a boycott decision anytime soon. There’s little new TV to watch. But what happens when the strike ends? It feels like it’s time to stop caring.