NBC Universal, iTunes officially divorce, but what about us kids?

nbc uI’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”).

chuck 250The 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.

last100 is edited by Steve O'Hear. Aside from founding last100, Steve is co-founder and CEO of Beepl and a freelance journalist who has written for numerous publications, including TechCrunch, The Guardian, ZDNet, ReadWriteWeb and Macworld, and also wrote and directed the Silicon Valley documentary, In Search of the Valley. See his full profile and disclosure of his industry affiliations.

3 Responses to “NBC Universal, iTunes officially divorce, but what about us kids?”

  1. Decklane says:

    One can’t blame NBC alone for their failed relationship with Apple. However, if I understand correctly, it seems to me they’re getting a little greedy and want to maintain a model where they get payed multiple times for the same content. Once for watching it temporarily like television, then another time for ‘owning’ the media like DVD.

    I know many people who just buy series on DVD and don’t watch them at all on television any more. You’re right they’re not paying attention to how people want to consume their media, they’re only seeing possible short term revenue.

  2. eelp says:

    Don’t forget to boycott ALL NBCU products: Bravo (reality 24/7…yuck), MSNBC, Universal Film, Universal Television Studios, and recently acquired Oxygen (good luck Lauren!).

Leave a Reply