NBC Revamping Fledgling NBC Direct with Pando Networks Deal

NBC is working with Pando Networks, a peer-to-peer content-delivery-technology company, to revamp its NBC Direct service.

NBC Direct launched in beta last November following the announcement that NBC would pull out of iTunes after its contract with Apple expired in December. NBC responded to the loss of iTunes by inking deals with Amazon Unbox for video delivery and joining forces with News Corp. on video site Hulu, as well as launching NBC Direct.

The NBC Direct Service lets users download high-resolution, ad-supported versions of NBC shows including 30 Rock, The Office, Heroes, American Gladiators and Late Night with Conan O’Brien. The service -- currently only available for PCs using Internet Explorer -- uses P2P technology to quickly and efficiently download the shows, which are automatically deleted after viewing or after a viewing window has lapsed. Taking a cue from TiVo, the service lets users “subscribe” to their favorite shows, automatically downloading new episodes when available.

NBC will use Pando technology to improve the efficiency of its P2P-delivery system, as well as protecting it through encryption and digital-rights management, including “hash-matching, digital-fingerprinting and content-watermarking technologies,” according to Pando.

"Our industry-leading knowledge of peer-assisted CDN technology, combined with our extensive experience building consumer-friendly media applications, will help NBC Direct to be a successful consumer experience," Pando CEO Robert Levitan said in a statement.

P2P-delivery systems -- such as the ones developed by Pando or BitTorrent -- use participants in a connected network to distribute data and files. P2P has become a scourge of the entertainment industry, as films, music and TV shows find their way onto P2P sites, trackers and services. Because the content is usually not stored on a central server, but spread out across thousands of individual computers, it is difficult to police.

P2P is, however, much faster and more stable than a direct download, which is why companies such as NBC have examined using it to distribute content.

NBC Direct’s move marks the first time that a television network has used P2P to distribute programming.

NBC expects to unveil the reworked NBC Direct later this quarter.