11/11/2007

NBC Direct Download Launches

United Hollywood congratulates NBC on yesterday's launch of NBC Direct Download, a new way to make money on the Internet. You can read the details here.

The service allows viewers to download full episodes of NBC programs for free. The viewer can watch the video on a computer for seven days until it "expires." Ads are embedded in the videos and are not skippable. Unlike with streamed episodes, viewers can fast-forward and rewind the show content.

Is NBC Direct Download the future of TV? It doesn't sound like it from the reviews. Of course, neither was Betamax. But VHS caught on. And then DVDs caught on. And then the video iPod caught on. And you just know that right now, as he sits in his levitating chair, Steve Jobs is staring at five top-secret devices laid out on a lab table, any one of which could change the way we consume media overnight.

There's money to be made with video on that there Internet. It's not a matter of if, but when. Will the creative professionals who make that content get fair compensation for it? We'll find out.

(And, psst: Steve Jobs. I'll beta test that iPhone 2 anytime.)

41 comments:

Kate said...

can i just point out some poor editing "United Hollywood congratulations NBC on yesterday's launch of NBC Direct Download"

I think that's United Hollywood congratulates NBC?

Juan said...

Please could you upload your video "Why we fight" to Stage 6 in order to put subtitles of different lenguages on it.

Best regards from Spain

Kate said...

one small other point
"Steve Jobs is staring at five top-secret devices laid out on a lab table, any one of which could change the way we consume media overnight."

Apple packages idea's in nice ways - it doesn't invent new ideas.

The lisa/mac was a rehash of the xerox star. The new mac's are built on ideas derived from PC's with tools built on years of development by other companies such as IBM, Sun, Silicon graphics and numerous others.

equally the mp3 player was first populrised by creative - I had a hard disk mp3 player years before an Ipod came out. Same with Mp4 players, same with the Iphone - there are plenty of other better phones in Europe and especially Japan that are years ahead of the Iphone

so you can probably buy right now any of those 5 projects, they might not be so cool looking and will not have an Apple logo.

btw I own various smartphones, and run systems running Linux, Windoze and yes Mac!

The Illustrated Conservative said...

"Apple packages idea's in nice ways - it doesn't invent new ideas."

Judging from the overall quality and constant rehash of old ideas, Hollywood doesn't invent anything new ideas either.

Take your time on the strike. We'll do just fine without you.

Anonymous said...

Any idea to whom I should write to tell them that I won't be using their new fancy service unless you guys have an acceptable contract?

- A loyal viewer

Mercutio said...

Mercutio here (dun dun duuuun!)

Sounds like the airlines are moving full steam ahead while the porters and conductors are striking the railroads.

I'm offended by the greed of the AMPTP but I just pray y'all ain't shooting yourselves in the foot right now.

I want you to stay out until you get what you deserve, I just hope you do.

Anonymous said...

Ignore the illustrated conservative, he's just showing his true, unpatriotic colors. Just like all people who do good, honest work in this country, I support you and all the writers. Everyone deserves fair compensation for what they do, and in an industry as fickle as entertainment writing, it's important to protect all the budding writers out there, not just the lucky few.

My suggestion: focus attention away from the "Aaron Sorkins", as you put it--that's not what this strike is about. This is about making sure the person slaving away for twenty years at writing (who never lands a big hit show) can take care of her family, it's about keeping writing a viable profession instead of just another exploited one.

You're doing something good, honorable and vitally necessary--I'm behind you 1000%, whatever the Youtube comments say. :)

Christian M. Howell said...

And don't forget Universal on demand where you pay for episodes and movies with no ads.

I actually bought a few before the strike. And the funny thing is the contract means nothing if there's no revenue.

That's what upsets me most. I mean even if you double the residual, the cost of storing downloads is almost nothing. Once you pay for the server and the cost of streaming(which is built-in) you still save tons over package distribution.

Casey said...

Not to be off topic but . . .
If times get tough, another way to keep public support and new revenue stream into the Union is utilize the WGA talent base. UnitedHollywood is a start, but more can be done.

Bring together some of the writers who make commercials and make 60 sec pro union ad spots. Then, open up donations to the general public for the emergency strike fund.

On a side note to keep up morale, the strike is good for other reasons. In the 1920s, Paris was home to the greatest artistic explosion since the renaissance. The reason was because WWI created lot of expats who went to that city from all over the world and they influenced one another.

The strike is the same sort of artistic catalyst. Writing can be isolating. However, now all of these writers and supportive actors are literally forced to be next to one another. This will inevitably create artistic collaboration. The strike itself therefore is exciting not just because writers are fighting for their livelyhood. It is exciting because it is the ground zero for artistic collaboration. This moment in history will engender a renaissance for creative writing.

The Night Scribe said...

Were are the feds? They can open the books.

Aaron said...

did some one get paid to writ the content on this website?

jimpbblmk said...

This service is as good as worthless "out of the box." The main reason they're doing this is to try to compete with iTunes, and that'll work brilliantly. It just sucks that they put this service out there right now, during the strike. It just flies in the writers' faces. Not cool.

Mercutio said...

Okay, here's a question I just saw on Hunningtonpost and thought I'd seek the opinions of the good folks posting here:

Should the writers of The Daily Show and the Colbert Report get a waiver?

It's not as easy a question as it first may seem for two reasons:

1. The thought of the mere possibility of an election year without these two shows is chilling (and yes maybe that might be seen as adding power and incentive to the strike), as someone put at the Huffytownpost, however, its a bit like Vietnam without Cronkite....

2. As another poster at huffpost puts it, they're sympathetic to te writers, they could get some good PR.

So what's the board think? Can we have our news back?

Scott Goodwin said...

Like Casey suggested, open up a way that non-WGA supporters can contribute to the strike fund--either as a donation or through merchandising (I personally could use another red t-shirt in my ensemble).

The corporations likely believe they just need to outlast the WGA strike fund, then have the writers settle for whatever they can get. If they believe that you can last longer than they've calculated, it may provide additional incentive to get the wheels moving again sooner.

Also, it might be helpful to post a list of those advertisers paying for "promotional" downloads/streams. That provides another way that supporters can apply pressure on the other end of the fulcrum to get this thing settled more quickly for all involved.

Mercutio said...

Clearly I mean "huffingtonpost" there, sorry about the typo!

Anonymous said...

Here's my proposal: The writers aren't happy with the DVD residual rate. But it is what is, it's never going to change. We all know that. No one's complaining with the current wages for writers. The next issue is the Internet. Pay that at the same scale as DVD plus a small percentage. I mean small. Like a 10% bump. That way the writers get a little more, the studios don't give up the farm. And everyone goes back to work.

A 10% raise (plus continued residuals) is a fair deal. And every day that goes by is income lost that no one on either side is either going to see.

Let's push this "DVD + 10 PROPOSAL."

Please. It can all be done in 48 hours.

Christian M. Howell said...

A 10% raise (plus continued residuals) is a fair deal. And every day that goes by is income lost that no one on either side is either going to see.

Let's push this "DVD + 10 PROPOSAL."

Please. It can all be done in 48 hours.


I think that's a slightly naive statement. WGA removed, I believe 25 conditions, including DVDs and never got a response.

The most complex issue is not what the WGA wants, but why the companies seem so unwilling to bend.

No matter what is made or not made, it won't change the "per use" rate, only how much a writer makes "per use year."

If shows are already successful in one medium and the proliferation of availability of the new medium is accelerating exponentially, it should seem obvious that the success of the new medium has already been assured.

In closing, I'd just like to say that the American Screenwriter's Association supports the WGA.

ctb/FL said...

Oh hey - FWIW, Flickr.com has several different member accounts w/ strike photos.Not just slackmistress & k4kafka(sp?)

simply type 'WGA strike' into the search box....

& I LOVE the idea of posting contact info for advertisers & studio execs so we can tell them what we think =

Anonymous said...

Oh, well, thats just fantastic isn't it?

Since we're probablygoing to be fightign this for a long time....ugh...I'm jsugoing to subscribe to more podcasts, and not use the stupid direct download thing. So ugh...ell...smoke if you got 'em

Anonymous said...

Anybody else find the timing of GE launching a faulty, buggy way to download shows (but not new ones) to be a little specious?

I mean, if you wanted to be able to say "no money in the internet," this was an EXCELLENT way to do it.

Roger S. H. Schulman said...

Is someone actually suggesting that we exempt The Daily Show and The Colbert Report from the effects of the strike because they're so good? I sigh heavily with despair. Let me just say that first, that's the whole idea of a strike: to deprive the corporations of their best product until they are willing to negotiate a fair deal for the writers who create that product. And, stepping off the union soapbox, I shake my head sadly and remind you that "The Daily Show" and "The Colbert Report," both of which I used to watch regularly, are comedy shows. If that's your sole, or even your main, source of news, I no longer wonder why so few people seem to understand the strike. Or anything else going on in this country or the world.

Please check out my blog at http://scriptwriting.blogspot.com

Mercutio said...

First:

I wasn't suggesting it. I was asking for opinions on a question someone else asked.

Second:

Explain, please, the difference between The daily Show and, say, Kieth Olberman's show on msnbc. Why aren't his writers on strike. If they're journalists why isn't that designation applied to the Daily Show as well. Again, I'm NOT suggesting this idea. I'm simply looking for clarification on issues that may seem crystal clear from inside the issue, but to those of us on the outside, not so much.

Speaking of us:

Third:

I agree with you on the inanity of those shows being someone's only source of news, still there's plenty of evidence out there to indicate that many (especially young) people do just that.

Fourth:

While I support your strike, I'd simply remind you that you're not only depriving the studios and networks of their product, but us as well. We're the people who watch your shows, go to your movies (though not in the numbers we used to), and thus give both you and the studios and networks the money you're fighting over. I hope you get what you're asking for. The other side is so clearly wrong here that it beggars description. I'm on your side, but I'm still asking for some perspective and consideration here. We're the barely mentioned third party to this strike, and all of the people I've spoken to "in the real world" are starting to feel a bit used and/or ignored by both sides. Sadly, replies like yours don't do anything to dispell those feelings in me.

Finally:

I'm sure that to those in the middle of this storm this seems like a very big deal (and it is as its about trying to knock congloms down to being fair), but there are so many other things happening in the world right now that are MUCH more important. Suicide bombers killed something like 49 school children in Afghanistan, an already unstable nuclear power is tipping towards either military or fundamentalist dictatorship, a Russian Oil tanker has broken in half at sea, and I could go on. Again, let's all of us (including and especially me) try to keep this issue in a little perspective.

Roger S. H. Schulman said...

You're a bit all over the place.

First you say "Can we have our news back" (not "should we have our news back"), then insist you're not taking a position, merely posing a question.

First you say it's inane to use these shows as a source of news, then you say many people are doing that, implying we should therefore treat these programs as news.

First you say the strike is badly hurting many members of the innocent public, then you say we should be thinking about other things, keeping this issue in perspective.

In sum, your tone may be reasonable, but your arguments simply are not.

In answer to your questions, Keith Olberman's show does not employ members of the WGA. The Daily Show and The Colbert Report do. Mr. Olberman has, ostensibly, a commitment to report the truth and clearly mark his opinions as just that; Messrs. Stewart and Colbert do not. As Mr. Stewart is fond of saying, he is a comedian. And I recently watched Mr. Colbert guest star in an episode of Law & Order as a murderer. You won't find Mr. Olberman doing that.

This is not a forum, and I am not a person, for perspective. Here and now, I am a writer whose income has suddenly stopped. I have been forced into this position by greedy corporations who have never respected my ability to render valuable product to their customers. Yes, we'll all look back at this in a hundred years, God willing, and maybe we'll wonder what the fuss was all about. Right now I'm spending my time and energy trying to explain exactly what the fuss is all about, and plan how I'm going to withdraw my savings in order to get by.

If you feel deprived not getting to watch your favorite shows, I'm glad we've been able to entertain you so far. Please write Time Warner, Disney, and the other conglomerates and ask them to re-enter into negotiations. We're waiting.

http://scriptwriting.blogspot.com

Anonymous said...

There's a pretty crazy YouTube video up called "The Very Official AMPTP Position":

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xP2Fupq2TPE

Mercutio said...

Okay.

A few counterpoints if I may.

A fair point about Colbert/Stewart as comedians and Olberman not. But then what am I to make of Brian Williams on SNL last week? Is he, in that particualr instance, a journalist or comedian?

Or are these boundaries that are increasingly breaking down in our media-saturated world? What about when CNN, Fake...er FOX NEWs, and MSNBC anchors appear as themselves in movies and TV shows?

What about blogs (such as this one)? Are the folks writing them journalists, WGA members, etc? The boundary between journalism and entertainment has never been more riddled and permeable.


Sorry, and I admit my logic is usually faulty at best, but I don't see how there's disconnect between the fact that the strike is badly hurting the public (though after searching my original post I cannot seem to find where I used that phrase, hmmmm). I simply meant that we're feeling the impact of the strike and likely will continue to do so. In my view, this, in way, contradicts or refutes that we should all (on this board) keep some larger persopecttives involved. And that includes me. My income has not, nor is it likely to be, impacted by this strike. I'm very very sorry that your's (and all in WGA and the subsidiary unions and satellite fields) has. And my anger is directed at the AMPTP for forccing the issue. Still, I was only trying to voice my frustrations as someone impacted (to a much less extent of course) by the strike. I wasn't aware that I should refrain from that here.


Further, I DID not say we should treat these shows (TDS & TCR) as news. Any implication in that direction was accidental and I'm sorry for the confusion. I merely ASKED why we didn't. You answered my question fair enough for that, so thanks.

boadicea said...

But then what am I to make of Brian Williams on SNL last week? Is he, in that particualr instance, a journalist or comedian?

Without editorializing too much, I'd suggest that is a question for Brian Williams.

And my anger is directed at the AMPTP for forccing the issue. Still, I was only trying to voice my frustrations as someone impacted (to a much less extent of course) by the strike. I wasn't aware that I should refrain from that here.

Except for one person who called you a troll, no one's suggested that. However, it's not reasonable (and you're clearly reasonable in general) to engage in a dialog but then object when your arguments are met with some sharpness by those whose behavior you're criticizing.

That, btw is in no way a suggestion you shouldn't ask questions.

BTW, if you'd like to ask any of these questions to the AMPTP, drop them an email. It will be interesting to know if you get bullshit or crickets.

pfdruy said...

Boadicea,

My money'd be on crickets.

And I wasn't objecting that the poster was telling me not to vent, but that he seemed to be, at best, misinterpreting what I'd said, and at worst, putting words in my mouth.

And, with all due respect, of course it's a question for Brian Williams. But it's also a fair question for Mr. Schulman who made the distinctiion between journalists and comedians in the first place. I guess what I was trying to ask was, if Brian Williams can be a comedian, why can't John Stewart or Dr. Stephen Colbert (if they so chose) be journalists.

To the great relief of many I'll say that that's it for me today (and likely ever as I've wasted enough of everyone's time and have work to do -- best to almost all and stay strong out there!).

R&J III.I.106

Mercutio said...

That was supposed to read "mercutio said...." but I'm a troglodyte with these voodoo boxes and never know what I'm doing...

Roger S. H. Schulman said...

This is thankfully one of the simpler questions. You're a journalist if you have sincerely pledged yourself to accuracy and truth and if you work for the Press, a body covered by the First Amendment. It's not really for us to say who's a journalist: it's for the writer. Brian Williams is a journalist, for good or ill. Colbert and Stewart are not, by their own proclamation. If Williams lies on the air, he should be fired. If Colbert and Stewart lie, they should be given a raise, as long as they're funny. Really, it's just that simple. If you listen to Colbert and Williams as if they were journalists, you're fooling no one but yourself, and they would be the first to agree.

Mercutio said...

I lied.

Okay, fair enough. And, for the record, I don't listen to them as journalists (though apparently Maureen Dowd does).

My larger, and not so simple, point remains. The dividing line between journalism and entertainment has been growing ever thinner. People DO get their news from TDS and TCR and SNL and Bill Maher. Sad as it may seem, that's just a fact.

No, it doesn't make them journalists, but it does, imho, endow them with some of the ethical responsibilties of journalism (if there are any left). You are, of course, free to disgree.

Your definition is reasonably put, and very clear. However, it is also soon going to be as outdated and quaint as broadcast TV in general. If it isn't already. Again, just an opinion.

And, hey, maybe this will be an unexpected benefit to this strike. Maybe those people used to getting their news from TDS and TCR will now seek it out from real journalists. You know guys like Williams, Olberman, O'Reilly, and the like. Heck even Matt Drudge and the folks at huffytownpost.

Serious "journalists" all.


As for me, I really do hope the strike ends ASAFP, but only when the writers get what they've earned.

'Til then, though, we've still got TCM, books, and Broadway sh... oh wait.

On a totally unrelated (to journalism) point. I think I read somewhere that WGA members are asked to report any writers engaged in scab behavior. While I understand why this has been done, it does seem to veer dangerously close to McCarthy-ism to me. Are you now, or have you ever been a scab? Can you namenames of anyone you know or saw engaged in scab actitivities. You know, scabs and fellow travellers?

Mercutio said...

BTW -- NOT defending scabs in my last post. Just want to be clear about that.

Just posing an ethical question: Why was it wrong for, say, Elia Kazan to name names, but not for some WGA member? Conversely, if it's okay for the WGA, wasn't it then okay for Kazan. Or is the animus towards informing subjective rather than objective?

If informing is wrong in case A, shouldn't it also be wrong in case B?

cam said...

The "promotional" public service announcement for Walgreens plays in Australia. But the NBC shows don't.

Roger S. H. Schulman said...

Your vocabulary leads me to believe you're an educated adult; otherwise I'd say your McCarthy question comes from a unwitting middle school student. Therefore I'm beginning to suspect you're merely a facile contrarian. Nonetheless, I give you the benefit of the doubt this one last time.

Guild members sign an agreement in which the uppermost rule is to not cross a picket line. Doing so undermines the piles of the labor action, prolongs the strike and makes everybody worse off -- even the scab, who ultimately will find himself out of the Guild and therefore out of most employment opportunities.

The persons that someone like Kazan implicated had done nothing more than live in the United States and exercise their basic freedom of expression, the very heart of Americanism. And in some cases, they hadn't even done that.

I can't imagine how you can compare one to the other, they have so little in common. You may as well lump in anyone who testifies in court about the actions of anyone else, period, regardless of circumstance.

Certainly identifying scabs is a personal decision every Guild member must make. But it's got nothing, absolutely nothing, to do with that dark chapter of history.

Somehow I think you know that.

http://scriptwriting.blogspot.com

Mercutio said...

Thought that might rile you up.

Seriously, I am completely ignorant when it comes to things like the agreement you mentioned. I've never been in a union so I don't know about stuff like that.

That is a real and true distinction and now I know about it.

Still, the contrarian in me is compelled to ask if Kazan (though I diagree with his choice) wasn't also exercising his own right to free speech?

Seriously though, thank you for answering (understandably snarkily) my question. I am satisfied on this point now.

Anonymous said...

I'm confused. We download shows from NBC, there are commercials, so the network gets paid, but the writers apparently still don't.

Why was it that you are in favor of this?

Like I said - I'm confused.

I think I'd rather do illegal peer to peer and paypal the writers!

but till then:
7 day expiration on episodes? - good thing I still have a VCR... and yes, I'm dreading the death of analog TV.

I love TV - all my VHS tapes were recorded complete with commercials. I've even acted on commercials I see when I finally watch the tape months or years later. And then sometimes with my DVR - I ditch the shows and save the commercials. There are some great commercials out there.

The thing is - while there are some people who buy DVDs of series, television has always been "free." Which is why people want to not pay for watching it, keeping it, etc.
Of course if there are shows I really love, I'll buy the DVDs. I have all the seasons of my 3 favorite shows, plus Buffy, and all but one season of two other shows. And even then, I'm recording those same episodes back onto my DVR because they are just easier to access in that fashion. Removable media is just unwieldy, when you need to reference a scene that you are reminded of by whatever you are watching now.

but really - if you are against "new media" (I notice Ellen Pompeo saying Don't download shows from the internet even as Katherne Heigl says she watches all of her shows online) then why are you suddenly lauding yet another instance of it?

please explain?

Dirtyword said...

Get your 'writer.' shirts, hats,
buttons, mugs, and more at:

dirtyword.net

Show your support for the writers!

David Grenier said...

Regarding mercutio: I'm going to go with "facile contrarian".

Writers band together in the form of the WGA to protect and promote their interests. Someone crossing a picket line is decidedly against that interest, for reasons that are so obvious I won't elucidate them no matter how much you feign ignorance and ask BS 'questions'. Ratting out writers to the government because of what they think or read or who they know is not in the writers interest. It's that simple.

News shows are not on strike because news writers are not part of the bargaining unit. Various unions may or may not have contract language that allows them to avoid crossing a picket line, and some individuals may feel that they have enough power to avoid crossing a picket line in violation of their contract and still come out generally unscathed. There are a whole host of reasons for this situation, again too much to go into here. Yes, the movement would be stronger if we had more industrial unions instead of craft unions and if there weren't laws prohibiting sympathy and secondary strikes.. but that's not the situation.

re: dirtyword - Cafepress is not union, and I'm not sure but the shirts may be the products of sweatshops. Please consider following the route of strikeswag.com and using a union printer and union-made shirts (available from Lifewear of Pennsylvania). Supporting one group of union workers by undercutting another is pretty fucked up. It'd be like saying, "I'm crossing the picket line in support of the strike!"

Mercutio said...

David;

Ignoring (for the moment) your insulting and elitist tone, I'll simply say that agree with what you write. I would merely point out that the distinction you draw (again, one that I agree with) is a subjective one and not an objective one.

If you scan over most of my previous posts on this and other boards on this blog I think you'll see that the word I've used almost more than any other is "perception."

We're all trapped inside the prisonhouses of our own perceptions. There may be (though I kinda doubt it) some kind of objective reality, but no one who has ever lived has been able to fully access it.

As the greatest dramatic writer who ever lived (and who was forced to make do without the benefits of a Guild) once had one of his characters opine: "There's nothing good or bad on earth but thinking makes it so."

So, yes, in a sense my question was very facile in that I was trying to get at an obejective conception of the act of informing. We all choose our sides on issues, and based on those choices develop our concepts of what's "morally" "right" and "wrong." There are no objective perceptions. So, from that lens, you and I can (and do) agree that Guild members informing on scabs is the morally "correct" thing to do, while Kazan's and others' informing was morally "incorrect."

Looking back at my original
post(s) on this ground, I can really see that I didn't communicate my stance very well. So I'm sorry about that.

However, as the "no snitching" movement in Hip Hop indicates, the subjective nature of informing is still very much an important question.

Again, people form their views based on their subjective perceptions. Its when (as with what happened on McCarthy's side of that committee table so many years ago) people forget that their viewes are subjective and begin to act as if they're objective, incontroveratble "proofs" that problems develop.

One might, for example, point out that inferring from someone's hastily written posts that they're "feign[ing] ignorance" and asking "BS 'questions'" is yet another example of a subjective perception being taken as an objective truth.

Another perception (equally subjective of course) might be that someone is truly interested in understanding a very complex issue a bit better, and that they're desperately trying to get answers so that they might better understand. That same person might also be a bit resistant to drinking the WGA's (or ANYONE'S) Kool Aid without first trying to see the issue from all possible (subjective and arguable) angles.

Perhaps, and as the comparatively civil Mr. Schulman, indicated above, this is not the proper forum for that kind of activity.

I think Damon Lindelof (SP?) is likely correct in his NYT op-ed that your union risks losing support as this trike goes on. I truly have been praying every night that does not happen. You are fighting a good and worthy fight here. Sadly, however, if folks like you keep negating and prejudging 'regular folks' like me who are merely trying to understand, such an alienation will only be hastened.

Anonymous said...

(right hand over heart) "We're not making ANY money off this crazy internet thingamabob!!!" (pushes "launch direct download" button with left hand before using it to count his millions.)

it's sickening (and a pretty vicious slap in the face) that they don't even have the good sense to put this on hold until the strike is over.

Anonymous said...

Mercutio - (and I don't know if someone's already said this, because honestly, it got pretty verbose down there towards the bottom of the page) but my vote would be to have the Daily Show/Colbert Report writers to take it upon themselves to do daily youtube video commentaries on the items they might usually discuss on the show. If they won't get paid for it, then no one else should either.

Mercutio said...

Verbosity on w site poplulated by many writers?!?!?

Surely, sir or madam, you jest!