NBC aims to take a bite out of
The network, owned by
, plans to roll out a free online downloading service allowing consumers access to its hit TV shows, such as
The service, called NBC Direct, will offer downloads with embedded advertisements that cannot be skipped. The test version will be launched in October and expanded to let consumers subscribe to shows and download them automatically. Seven days after a show's debut, the file will expire.
declined to renew its contract with Apple's popular download service, iTunes, where customers could pay a small fee to download the shows. The contract runs through the end of the year, but as a result of the move Apple said it wouldn't show any of NBC's shows for the new fall season.
At first, the NBC service will be available only to computers running
Windows software, but NBC said it plans to make it available to users of Apple's Mac computers in the future.
NBC sells episodes for permanent download on its Web site, and it streams them for free. The company is also
launching a video site called Hulu in partnership with
Fox Broadcasting and with a slew of distribution partners such as
, News Corp.'s MySpace and
That effort is aimed at competing with
popular video Web site YouTube.