Close, But No Cigar

NBC announced they are going with free downloads for seven days after the show airs. I gotta give these big media companies credit, they are slowly but surely getting there. But why not make it free and ad supported forever? Put the 30 second spots right into the downloadable file and let it go.

Until big media companies understand that they cannot and will not control their content once its left their servers, we won’t have a vibrant digital media ecosystem. Blowing up files after seven days is lunacy when you could have an ad in there and be getting paid for impressions for a long long time.

#VC & Technology

Comments (Archived):

  1. vruz

    the proverbial Pink Floyd quote:…Come in here dear boyHave a cigarYou’re gonna go farYou’re gonna fly highYou’re never gonna dieYou’re gonna make it if you tryThey’re gonna love you…except, of course, that the recent counterbalance of digitaldemocracy in power has changed who should be getting the cigar.

  2. mjmantey

    Amazing isn’t it. If they told me I could download the show, I would sit through 2 or 3 spots, answer some questions about the products advertised, and opt-in to receive alerts when new shows are posted. I would probably even tell them that I am married with 2 kids, live in a large metro, watch only a little programatic TV, buy my groceries online and am looking to buy a boat this off season. You’d think they’d see the value in owning profiles like that, but I guess that really takes work to update and nurture, so it’s easier just to run the ads.

  3. Sofia

    NBC’s Ben Silverman is doing his level best.

  4. Andrew Parker

    Carnac the Magnificent says: NBC can’t take your advice because they’re addicted to the TV on DVD revenue. Releasing free, open, ad-supported files would completely undercut DVD sales. That said, an aggressive smaller player at the market (I’m looking at you CW… or maybe USA’s original series) will make this move, thus forcing the hand of larger players like NBC due to users’ expectations set by interaction with smaller players.Ok, enough soothsaying. Back to work.

  5. Elie

    With the technology these companies have at their their disposal they should be providing the shows indefinitely and changing the ads within the shows regularly. This would bring in recurring revenue that they could scale the price of depending on the number of times the show was viewed. They also need to get back on iTunes and use this same model. Create a podcast for each show. I will give them a little credit for some creativity but then again all of us (their customers) are still thieves and until they get that mentality out of their heads we will continue to see half thought out ideas like this make headlines as if they were revolutionary.

  6. Tom Coseven

    Fred, I agree an expiration is very crippling, especially for the traveler trying to catch up on several back episodes. It’s a measurements problem… since they can’t measure repeated or delayed viewing of ads adequately and translate it into a discounted CPM, they think there is no value. No value means “why bother.” After all, the longer the product sits on a consumer hard drive the more chance it will be compromised. It’s logical (in a backward thinking sort of way), but it kills the potentially most attractive feature.

  7. jon burg

    Traditional media powerhouses like NBC are making the bulk of their money off their mainstream media properties. At this point NBC needs to BEGIN investing and experimenting in digital both to placate their investors (due to the roughly 2% incremental loss their facing bec of growing DVR proliferation) and as an investment in the future. NBC isn’t going to kill their DVD and syndication markets (anytime soon) with free ad supported time-unristricted DRM secured asset distribution. The 7 day shelf life is actually brilliant. This allows viewers to catch up on missed episodes (much like they do on a Tivo) and remain engaged with the brand in between new episode releases. As shows will typically air a new episode every 7 days, the 7 day shelf life makes perfect sense from a traditional media monetization perspective. It may not be what we would ideally want as digital media users, but it makes the most sense for NBC given their current revenue models,Additionally, distributed user controlled downloadable asset distribution is a dangerous pandora’s box that many traditional media properties are hesitant to open. If they let go of content distribution, then Revelie (productions) will be able to bypass NBC and bring much of their own content direct to users, generating significantly greater ad revenue for themselves as they will have bypasses a fairly significant middleman (this hypothecial takes place 30 years in the future when broadcast TV and IPTV are operating on equal planes).For more check out my post on this today at….

  8. James

    I would happily download programs, either files or a player format, and watch commercials if they gave me Seinfeld. I don’t really care about most of the content NBC is providing now. I want Seinfeld. The big media companies keep trying to ram their big square peg in infinitely many and unpredictably shaped holes. Why they don’t allow they their content to work for them is completely beyond me.

  9. Robert Seidman

    It’s a good start but it takes a long time for old media to give up the ghost. NYT Select is just now free, and I don’t imagine the WSJ will be far behind. But it took the WSJ over 10 years to get there! I suspect that the TV Network folks will be wary of free-forever content until DVD revenue dries up, and that’s at least a few years off yet.p.s. I vote for the old comments system back. Threading is nice, but I can never see who actually made the comments unless I click the link to the full thread on disqus.

  10. Axel Moonshine

    They also need to learn that “region-lock” mentality is not compatible with the online world.It is sure that NBC “Universal” will block other countries from their online videos. As a Canadian consumer that receives and pays for all the same American TV channels and more often than not, with American ads, this does not make any business sense. Every American channel I receive on the TV always have a “not available in your region” message instead of playing video.After that, they complain that there is too much piracy in Canada. No wonder why… They just don’t get it. Youtube and other pure online companies do not do that. If they want to win online, they’ll have to learn.

  11. Steven Kane

    Haven’t we all read The Innovator’s Dilemma?Hugely successful hugely profitable huge companies simply do not slaughter their cash cows, no matter how terrifying the future may look. For one thing, they’re only human, and they have so much to lose. For another, they are responsible humans — responsible to their shareholders, most of whom, i dare say, would rebel (e.g. sell off their holdings) if management suddenly announced that revenues, margins and earnings don’t matter (a peculiar luxury we in the startup world take for granted.)a well managed media titan will never careen helter skelter into the future (and besides, who will we take potshots at if they do?) rather, it will look for defensive strategies plus incremental change plus a highly liquid, high valued stock to use as a currency for opportunistic M&A moves when the fog clears from time to time

  12. Sin Jin

    why force your hand??if you’ve got piles and piles of money in your pocket your going to be a bit sluggish to act. In all seriousness is this lack of initiative really surprising to any of us. The big 4 know they are the big four so they go around thinking up solutions at the speed of a Roseanne Barr 40 yard dash. Any change has got to begin with cultural and institutional change. Its time they restructure their machine because I sense its in dire need of some entrepreneurial gumption.

  13. Ethan Bauley

    One underrated driver in some of these decisions is contracts with SAG, etc.

    1. phoneranger

      Ethan’s right. The hideously complex rights management problem will prevent the majors from doing anything big enough and fast enough to move their dial. By the time advertisers and unions make a deal for internet distribution and royalites, the game will be effectively over. Too many distractions will have grabbed consumer attention. Big media with big overheads will have a tough time competing in the fragmented media marketplace. Better to start from scratch. Hmmm.

  14. jpb

    Yeah, forcing consumers to watch the commercials and put up with files that potentially expire before they’re viewed – that’ll go over well with the public.My prediction – they’ll spend millions of dollars, and people will continue to record the shows off the air and digitize them, and they’ll impose ever more onerous conditions on the free downloads because “our content is being pirated”

  15. David Evans

    is it also partly an ad placement and recurring revenue issue?Do NBC have the ability to monetize via ad placements outside of the US?What about when the ads get old? They need replacing – that’s why the timeout makes sense.