Friday, September 21, 2007

Free Downloads? Huzzah!

The NBC vs. Apple battle over the cost of downloading TV episodes off iTunes took an interesting turn yesterday, as NBC announced it would be putting episodes of shows previously only available on iTunes on its own Web site for free.

NBC will hope to make money off the episodes by embedding commercials within the downloads, but it's a good deal for the average viewer, who now won't have to pay $1.99 for reruns of shows like "Heroes" and "The Office."

The question is, will NBC make more off the advertisements than it did off iTunes? Certainly, other networks such as ABC have had a good run with embedded commercials on their Web site, as viewers have been able to download the likes of "Ugly Betty," "Lost," and "Grey's Anatomy" for free.

It is a curious move, though, for NBC in this sense: Should they ever try to settle with Apple, or try a different format for downloads, how many viewers will start paying again to download an episode that they're now about to get for free?

Meanwhile, I feel NBC continues to be the cleverest in terms of its use of viral promotions. To wit, check out this Web site devoted to "Heroes" -

This is also a good one, promoting the new season of "My Name Is Earl" -

As a consumer, I was always resentful of having to pay to download reruns, so I find this move from NBC to be pleasing.

DOESN'T ANYONE STAY DEAD ANYMORE?: It was announced this week that two popular supporting actors previously thought dead will return to their popular series at some point this season.

Earlier this week, "24" producers let slip that Carlos Bernard, aka Tony Almeida, would be returning this season to the show (presumably not as some long-lost twin). I'm a bit curious to see how they producers explain this, what with Tony being shot in the neck and bleeding to death and all two seasons ago.

Also, Cynthia Watros, aka Libby, will be back on "Lost." This is perhaps a little more reasonable, because it's probable that Libby will only be appearing in a flashback sequence. (Or will she? Hmmm....) Libby was last seen being shot to death by the idiot Michael (Harold Perrineau), who was last seen himself sailing away from the island. Perrineau is also scheduled to return to "Lost" this season.

WEEKEND'S BEST BETS: Capt. Jack Harkness (John Barrowman) returns to "Doctor Who" (Sci Fi, 8 p.m.) in the first episode of the three-part season finale. It's followed by a new "Flash Gordon" at 9 p.m. and the series finale of "Painkiller Jane" at 10 p.m.

You can also catch Capt. Jack on his regular series, "Torchwood" (BBC America, Sat., 9 p.m.)

Staying in a fantasy frame of mind, "Family Guy" (Fox, Sun., 9 p.m.) kicks off its new season with an hour-long parody of "Star Wars." It follows the season premiere of "The Simpsons" (Fox, Sun., 8 p.m.), featuring guest-star Stephen Colbert.

Also on Sunday are the season premieres of "Cold Case" at 9 p.m. and "Shark" at 10 p.m., the latter of which featuring new cast members Kevin Pollack and Kevin Alejandro ("Ugly Betty").

Finally, one of the most anticipated TV events of the year kicks off Sunday night as PBS airs the new Ken Burns World War II documentary, "The War," beginning at 8 p.m.


zodin2008 said...

As someone who spent 3 1/2 years (until this past April) working for Public Television & Public Radio here in my home area of Washington, D.C., I am excited by Ken Burns' latest project (since he's covering one of the most fascinating subjects in human history), but dumbfounded that this was pushed back to essentially start/coincide with the start of the Networks Fall TV season.

It doesn't make any sense to me.

On one hand, I get not wanting to kick off a major event in August - a new Burns' Documentary deserves bigger (though having met Burns in person a few times, he's not exactly a guy you can root for - a big primadonna) so why not roll out 'The War' in earlier September - right after Labor Day or even the following week?

You're still 2 weeks ahead of almost all the big TV premiers, and everyone is back from vacations, so you have a capitve audience, waiting for something interesting to watch! Burns really could have had the early-middle part of September to himself, and still gotten a big fall audience.

Instead, he's rolling out his big Doc opposite the season premier of "The Simpsons" (hotter again since coming off a big Summer movie), NBC's always high rated Sunday night Football, and the season premiers of very popular ABC and CBS Dramas.

Then 'The War' continues head to head with more season premiers throughout the week including returning popular shows from 'Heroes' to 'Gray's Anatomy' to 'CSI'. That's pretty stellar competition.

But this is more arrogance on the part of Burns (he had been urged from people inside Public television not to roll it out against the Fall network premiers) and since I have seen it first hand, I am not surprised.

And contrary to popular belief, not everyone watching Network Television are of a 5th Grade education level. There are in fact those of us who say enjoy 'Heroes' or 'Ugly Betty', but would also like to watch 'The War'. There's too much for my DVR to handle - particularly Mondays and Thursdays.

As for the news about Carlos Bernard on "24", well, I have little to say since I can't really defend "24" on this front. We've waged many a war on this show on your Blog, but "24" has crossed any line of Reality by bringing back a (beloved) character who was in fact murdered before the eyes of about 18 million Fox viewers.

Good luck explaining this, "24". We're all ears.

Phillip Ramati said...

That's a good point about the Burns documentary. The timing doesn't seem great. i think part of the reason might have been all the last-minute editing done for it. But it could also be that PBS thinks it will draw from a different audience than those who watch regular TV anyway. (Or maybe they are just hoping everyone buys the DVDs.)

zodin2008 said...

Trust me, phillip, having met Burns and knowing things on the 'inside' at PBS, this was ALL about Ken's ego. It's why he was so pissed at being forced to add a section on Hispanic Americans contribution.

For him, it had nothing to do with right or wrong, it had to do with his ego and being told what to do. He hates that.

Phillip Ramati said...

Well, I have to side with Burns in the sense that he wants to make the film his way, which is his right as a filmmaker. Having to go and reshoot part of it because of a political correctness issue would annoy me as well.

zodin2008 said...

It was annoying but if he was going to do speacial featurettes on each cultural, religious or ehtnic group that made contributions and the project being so high profile, I could understand the other side of it that the Hispanic community felt it was unfair to be left out - since they did contribute.

Phillip Ramati said...

Well, I don't know if he was doing special features on individual ethnic groups. Based on the reports (without having seen the final cut) it seemed like he was interview soldiers in general, not ones with specific groups, and didn't initially interview any hispanic soldiers. But I could be wrong about that, not really sure.

Anonymous said...

The War did a four household rating in the Atlanta Metered markets Sunday night. About 300% higher than the usual PBS stuff in Atlanta. Minnesota and Boston were much higher than Atl for this one. The War is good stuff but the Georgia audience prefers lighter fare 100% of the time Football on NBC, Desperate Housewives.
You fellas on this blog expect too much from viewers in these parts.

Phillip Ramati said...

Believe me, anon, my expectations for the viewers are always set real low.