NBC premieres series on iTunes, bypassing affiliates

The network will debut its new legal drama as a free download on Apple's iTunes before its initial television broadcast

A series of recently announced, alternative distribution strategies are chipping away at the sanctity of the traditional broadcast model and stations’ exclusivity to key programming. Last week, NBC scored a first by debuting its new legal drama “Conviction” as a free download on Apple’s iTunes Music Store before its initial television broadcast.

Users of iTunes can download the Dick Wolf-produced hour-long production in its entirety for free. The promotion will extend until the show’s network debut March 3, after which each episode will become available to download for $1.99 the day after it airs.

Jeff Zucker, NBC Entertainment Group CEO, told Reuters that the network is trying to attract “a new audience increasingly comfortable with this downloadable format as a viewing option.”

NBC also will promote the free preview on the show’s TV promos, across NBC Universal Web properties and on iTunes. The network’s “The Office” is the television show now most often purchased from Apple’s online store.

NBC is not the first network to challenge the tradition of the broadcast premiere. Earlier this year, a new partnership between FOX Entertainment Group and DIRECTV allowed viewers to pay to see a program before debuted on a network.

Beginning in March, viewers with a DIRECTV Plus digital video recorder will be able to get a “first look” at prime time programming from FOX’s FX network a full 24-48 hours prior to their initial broadcasts. The cost will be $2.99.

Later in the year, DIRECTV subscribers will gain post-air access to FOX series. For 99 cents, a viewer can watch a show six to seven days following its first national broadcast.

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