NBC Universal, which already lets viewers stream many of its TV shows for free, will start letting them download them without charge as well. There are all sorts of caveats, of course — the shows will have ads, they’ll only work on Windows machines, they’ll expire after a week — but it’s certainly a worthwhile experiment. Eventually, NBC says, the shows will work on Apple’s Macs and “portable devices” — no word about iPods specifically — and will be swappable via P2P networks.
Valleywag chides NBC for not making up its mind about video formats — because NBC is also fighting with Apple, selling downloads via Amazon and pursuing its Hulu streaming video JV with News Corp. But that’s a ridiculous critique.
Of course it makes sense for NBC to try out multiple digital strategies. There’s almost no revenue at stake for the time being — like every other broadcaster, NBC’s digital business is minuscule compared to its core operations. Meanwhile the more avenues NBC pursues, the less leverage any particular partner — say, Steve Jobs — will be able use in negotiations. Release.