After ABC; NBC & CBS to offer prime time shows on demand

MUMBAI: The move towards time shifted television consumption is gathering pace. Rival US networks NBC Universal and Viacom's CBS separately announced on Monday they would be making some of their lead prime-time entertainment series available on demand and commercial-free for 99 cents per episode.

The developments follow ABC's announcement last month that it will offer ad-free Internet downloads of its biggest hits, Lost and Desperate Housewives, for $1.99 per episode.

The NBC and CBS announcements marks a new phase for video on demand and further emphasises the changing landscape of providing prime-time content to viewers whenever they choose. While CBS is partnering with cable powerhouse Comcast, NBC has teamed up with the News Corp controlled satellite platform DirecTV for its VoD offering.

NBC and DirecTV will give consumers access to the top programs of NBC and its cable entertainment networks, USA, Sci Fi and Bravo, within hours after they air, commercial free. The programs will be available on demand through the new DirecTV Plus interactive DVR.

The multi-year agreement between NBC and DirecTV will give the primetime on demand rights to NBC Universal TV programs, such as Law & Order: SVU, Law & Order: CI, The Office, Monk, Surface and Battlestar Galactica. The programs will be available until the following week's episode airs. NBC Universal's movies and TV events will also be available through DirecTV Plus, and on pay-per-view (PPV).

The CBS-Comcast deal, meanwhile, begins in January. Comcast Digital Cable customers in markets served by CBS owned-and-operated television stations (including the top seven US markets) will be able to view episodes of CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, NCIS, Survivor and The Amazing Race on Comcast's On Demand service. The on-demand programs will be available as early as midnight following their broadcast on the CBS television network.

Customers will be able to view the episodes anytime they want for up to 24 hours from the time they order them. Certain Comcast systems also may make CSI and NCIS available On Demand in high-definition for customers with HD-enabled Comcast digital cable set-top boxes. Prior to the March debut of new episodes of Survivor and The Amazing Race, viewers will be able to order episodes of the fall 2005 editions (Survivor: Guatemala and The Amazing Race 8).

The deal combines Comcast with the new CBS Corporation with preeminent positions in broadcast and cable television, radio, outdoor advertising, and online.

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