NBC Universal Taps SanDisk's Service As Replacement For iTunes

Shows that are expected to be available in January include The Office, Heroes, and 30 Rock.

NBC Universal, which recently pulled its TV shows off of iTunes in a well-publicized spat with Apple, has revealed a new content platform partner.

On Tuesday, the joint partnership of General Electric's NBC and Vivendi Universal Entertainment said it plans to offer some its most popular shows on SanDisk's online video-download service.

Under the agreement, NBCU shows could be downloaded onto SanDisk's new PC-to-TV video player that lets users download content from a USB port, and then carry the files over to a living room television for playback through standard audio/video sockets.

To feed its Sansa TakeTV device, SanDisk has launched a download site called Fanfare, which is in beta and would compete with Apple's iTunes music and video store. NBCU plans to start offering content on Fanfare in January. The shows will only play through TakeTV.

NBCU dropped its shows from iTunes in August after Apple refused to budge on pricing. NBCU wanted to charge more for some shows, but Apple wanted to stick to its policy of selling all TV shows at a set price of $1.99 per episode. With the SanDisk deal, NBCU gets the flexibility in pricing and packaging it wants.

Fanfare visitors will be offered a variety of ways to purchase shows. Discounts will apply to multiple episode purchases and entire seasons. In addition, NBCU will offer deals to encourage people to buy a bundle of different TV shows at one time.

NBCU shows that are expected to be available in January include The Office, Heroes, and 30 Rock. The studio also plans to offer series, specials and sports from USA Network, the Sci-Fi Channel, Bravo, Telemundo, NBC Sports and NBC News. Some of those series include Monk, Battlestar Galactica, and Top Chef.

TakeTV is offered as an easy way for consumers to watch Web content on their televisions, by avoiding the complexity of networking PCs with a digital TV. The player costs $100 for 4Gbytes of storage, which holds about five hours of video. An 8Gbyte version that holds up to 10 hours of video costs $150.

Fanfare requires the user to first download software to access the online store and manage downloaded content. The site offers free and paid video.

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