NBCU Offers Downloads On SanDisk’s Fanfare; Deal Centered On Pricing And Security

Continuing its drive to syndicate its TV programming fare on as many websites as possible, NBCU has struck a deal with Flash memory maker SanDisk to put its shows on the company’s new online Fanfare download platform. The agreement covers current programs running on NBC, USA Network, SCI FI Channel, Bravo, as well as shows from NBCU’s library. NBCU’s programming will be available on the SanDisk (NSDQ: SNDK) site starting next month. The deal follows recent distribution agreements with Netflix (NSDQ: NFLX) and Amazon, (NSDQ: AMZN) and adds to ad-supported download download-to-own options available on the NBC Direct site, and the streaming option viewers are offered on the NBC/News Corp. (NYSE: NWS) JV Hulu.com and NBC.com.

SanDisk’s Fanfare service, which launched in beta in October, lets users download TV shows and other videos from their computer for playback on their TV via the company’s Sansa TakeTV video player device. Other participants in Fanfare’s beta include CBS, (NYSE: CBS) Jaman.com, Showtime Networks, The Weather Channel and TV Guide Broadband.

Aside from the additional placement for its programming, NBCU is clearly interested in the security options SanDisk is offering and the two will partner on developing a series of watermarking and filtering technologies. Pricing has been another big issue that NBCU has emphasized in its download deals and was a major sticking point in its dispute with Apple. This arrangement will rely on a variety of purchasing models, including flexible pricing and packaging. NBCU will also offer discounts to Fanfare BETA users for multiple episode purchases and entire seasons, as well as incentives to purchase a bundle of different TV shows at one time. A SanDisk rep added that exact prices for NBCU’s packages are still being worked out. Release

SAI: Fanfare will serve as NBCU’s new “iTunes-like store,” says Jean-Briac Perrette, NBCU’s president, Digital Distribution. However, viewers won’t be able to watch NBCU’s downloads on their iPods – or any other portable device until next September, when SanDisk comes out with its Sansa View. Perrette describes it as “an iPod-like portable device.”

Pricing: Users will be charged between $0.99 to $3.99 for an individual download. And to drive home the point that this deal is directly opposite to its former relationship with Apple, (NSDQ: AAPL) Perrette stresses that NBCU “will control the wholesale price of its content. This is no different than any other wholesale relationship; it’s not different in the sense that WalMart decides to price DVDs at a loss.