NBC has announced that it's introducing a program that will let you automatically download some of its shows to your PC. With the announcement came the latest round of TiVo (NASDAQ:TIVO) doom and gloom articles, that assert that this technology will somehow be able to replace a DVR. While I like that NBC is being innovative and is offering more choices to consumers, I am also skeptical about the long term prospects for this one.
I suspect that NBC is hoping to build a strong subscription base for the shows, so that it can then try and pitch companies on paying for ads by the download. There may be some advertisers that will be foolish enough to accept these arrangements, but over the long run, the advertisers will figure out why it’s doomed for failure.
Right now I would estimate that I record 80 GBs of content each week. I watch a lot of it, but most of it is junk and ends up deleted. This digital waste doesn’t matter though, because there is no variable cost tied to my recording the content. The cable company is broadcasting the signal no matter what. I could delete all of it and it won’t cost them a penny more.
When it comes to downloads though, it’s a different story. Now there is no way for me to know how much NBC really pays for its downloads, but if we assume that it pays 19 cents per GB, it would cost them $15 a week just to offer the choices and convenience that my TiVo provides. Even if you assume my estimates are high, start multiplying this out by millions and things will start to get expensive.
This wouldn’t be a problem is you were watching 80GB’s worth of commercials, but it creates huge waste, if you end up deleting most of it. As is, advertisers are upset that DVR users are skipping through 50% of their commercials, but if you assume that consumers are deleting 50% of your paid download to begin with, how will they be any better off?
In the near term, these types of developments make for great headlines, but if this gets any kind of real traction, I have no doubt that NBC will cancel the downloads or restrict demand by offering limited content. I’m expecting a long beta on this one. It’s a neat little Jedi mind trick, but I think marketers will be more savvy and will demand greater accountability.