NBC (s CMCSA)(s ge) might have made its full-length TV episodes available for free on its iPad (s aapl) app last week, but that doesn’t mean it’s going to shy away from TV Everywhere-type authentication on its digital streams. Vivi Zigler, NBC Universal’s president of digital entertainment, told us in a phone interview that the network is considering following Fox (s NWS) in limiting access to its full-length episodes to viewers who pay for cable or satellite TV.
Since launching the latest version of its iPad app, some wondered if the decision signaled a chance in the way NBC thought about access to its content online and on mobile devices. In particular, BTIG analyst Richard Greenfield suggested the move positioned NBC and Fox digital strategies at “180 degree polar opposites.” But that’s not necessarily true; Zigler said the network was evaluating the possibility of also extending authenticated access to its own content online and on mobile devices like the iPad.
Fox became the first broadcast network to limit next-day access to its full-length TV episodes last month, setting up an eight-day window on Hulu and Fox.com for viewers that weren’t logged in with a cable or Hulu Plus subscription. Other broadcasters could soon follow suit. Already, Disney CEO Bob Iger said he supported authentication and would move to make more of the company’s content available through a TV Everywhere-type system. Until now, both CBS (s CBS) and NBC have remained pretty quiet on the topic.
When asked if NBC would follow Fox’s lead in linking access to its online streams only to those viewers who pay for cable or Hulu Plus, Zigler said the network was “definitely looking at it,” and it’s still trying to figure out what the proper business rules will be for digital distribution.
So far, NBC is treading carefully with digital distribution. The latest update to its iPad app simply mirrors all the content that is available on the NBC.com website, while NBC figures out how users are interacting with it. “In this space, you never ever ever carve anything in stone,” Zigler told us.
The network is also being conservative on the ad front, playing a somewhat limited number of ads during breaks in videos in the app. According to Zigler, NBC has signed up five charter advertisers for the launch, who will help monetize the shows through the end of the year. After that, the network will re-evaluate the ad load that runs against those episodes.