The future has arrived!

NBC, CBS to offer shows on demand for 99 cents
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – NBC and CBS unveiled separate plans on Monday to make some of their hottest prime-time shows available for viewers to watch at their leisure — without commercials — for 99 cents an episode, throwing open the door to “on-demand” television.
The back-to-back announcements from NBC Universal, a unit of General Electric Co., and Viacom Inc.-owned CBS, came weeks after Walt Disney Co.’s ABC began offering commercial-free Internet downloads of its biggest hits, “Lost” and “Desperate Housewives,” for $1.99 a piece.
The two latest deals add CBS and NBC shows such as “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation” and “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit” to the mix of programs networks are clamoring to deliver outside conventional broadcasts.
All three ventures highlight growing efforts by the major commercial networks to shake up “old media” models and expand their avenues of distribution.
On-demand viewing — enabling audiences to order up shows when they feel like watching instead of according to a preset program schedule — has been commonplace on pay-cable networks for some time.
A number of broadcasters have dabbled in this area lately, and personal digital recorders such as TiVo Inc.’s popular device already allow viewers to record and play back their favorite shows while skipping through commercials.
But the NBC and CBS ventures are the first to give viewers access to several prime-time broadcast offerings on a next-day, on-demand basis through their television sets, as opposed to a personal computer or portable digital device like iPod. And viewers do not record the shows themselves.
Both services launch early next year, with NBC programs distributed through satellite broadcaster DirecTV Group and CBS via cable giant Comcast Corp..
“This has the chance to make our networks even stronger,” NBC Universal Television Group President Jeff Zucker told Reuters. “It provides more exposure to the shows and gives the viewer the ability to watch the episodes on their own timetable.”
NBC narrowly beat CBS to the punch by announcing its tie-in first. Under its plan, select shows from NBC Universal’s flagship network, NBC, and its cable networks will be made available for on-demand viewing to homes equipped with a new DirecTV digital video recorder (DVR).
NBC’s initial offerings will include the two spinoffs of its “Law & Order” franchise — “SVU” and “Criminal Intent,” as well as workplace comedy “The Office” and sea monster thriller “Surface.” Two cable shows also will be part of the mix — USA Network’s “Monk” and Si Fi channel’s “Battlestar Galactica.”
Hours after those shows first air on the network each week, they will be “pushed” to DirecTV Plus DVRs, where they will be stored digitally and available the next morning for customers to select and play at their convenience for 99 cents.
The DVR devices can be obtained by DirecTV subscribers from retail outlets for free after a $100 mail-in rebate.
The CBS venture will initially make four of the network’s biggest prime-time hits — “CSI,” “NCIS,” “Survivor” and “The Amazing Race” — available to Comcast digital cable customers in markets served by CBS-owned TV stations. Those areas include Los Angeles, Chicago, Dallas, Philadelphia, Baltimore and some outlying suburbs of New York City.
Comcast already offers digital cable customers some 3,800 on-demand titles, mostly movies, children’s shows, sports and music, at no extra charge. Comcast has logged more than 1 billion program views this year, as of last month.
Like NBC’s shows, CBS on-demand programs will be sold for 99 cents per episode, the same price online music sites typically charge for downloads of a single song.
In October, Disney began offering next-day Internet downloads of its biggest ABC hits, “Lost” and “Desperate Housewives,” and some other shows for $1.99 per episode via Apple Computer Inc.’s online iTunes music store.