Is there a media company on the planet with less focus than NBCU? Their overarching strategy must be, “Throw everything we’ve got at the walls and see what sticks!” Meanwhile, the disruption continues unimpeded, because none of what they’re tossing around has a damned thing to do with it.

The latest from the people who brought you ClownCo (aka hulu.com) is to offer free, advertising-included downloads of their top programs that will, should you choose to accept, self-destruct after a week. You can’t fast-forward through the ads, and you need a special player for the videos.

Please tell me how this washes with the strategy of selling the same programs for $3.99 at hulu.com? Moreover, what makes these people think that viewers will flock to the NBC.com website to view these programs on their computers. Call me a nut, but most people into time-shifting do so with their handy little DVRs, which allow them the fast-forwarding option.

How does NewsCorp — their Hulu partner — feel about this, I wonder.

A New York Times article on the new service includes a fair bit of skepticism, too.

Chris Crotty, an analyst for iSuppli, an independent firm that specializes in analysis of new electronic media, said of the NBC move, “I think it’s a stretch.” He argued that consumers have shown they are extremely happy with the iTunes service and that it would not be attractive to consumers to have to range far and wide over a number of services to find the programs they want to download.

“It’s not just a shift from a supermarket to a mom-and-pop story, it’s a shift to one store that only sells bread, another store that only sells dairy products. The consumers have decided they want to get their content from iTunes.”

Mr. Crotty said NBC had come across to consumers as “highly greedy” in its dispute with Apple. Apple reported that NBC was insisting it raise the price of some downloads on NBC shows to $4.99 from the $1.99 iTunes charges for all programs.

The Times story also quotes Jeff Gaspin, the president of the NBC Universal Television Group as saying, “piracy was and is our No. 1 priority.” Um. Shouldn’t your audience be priority number one? This falls in line with the quote of the week below about how it’s always bad business if you treat your customers as thieves going in.

But the real problem with this is that it forces people (again) to come to the NBC site in order to access the programs. This is what all legacy broadcast companies want, and every time one of these companies forces this issue, all of Silicon Valley smiles, because THEY KNOW that this is contrary to what’s driving online business success.

Prediction: Some valley start-up will create a portal for these types of downloads, because the networks and studios are too prideful to do it themselves (see my essay below).


  1. i think until everyone in the press stops carrying their f’in water they’ll just continue on their merry way… holding press conference after press conference, but not launching a damn thing.

    even the fine folks at providence equity have yet to add a mention of their purported hulu investment to their http://www.provequity site. think they might know something?


  1. […] Valleywag has one of the best quotes I’ve seen in a while, this time snagging AOL’s Frank Gruber making a huge black mark on NBC’s forehead in reax to Jeff Gaspin saying that “piracy” is the #1 priority at NBC Universal Television Group. You can’t make this stuff up if you try. Terry Heaton’s take is spot on as well. […]

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