In another first for the fledgling world of "on-demand" television, NBC and the sister studio of rival network ABC have teamed up to make a prime-time show of shared interest, "Scrubs," available for Internet downloads.
The NBC hospital comedy, produced by Disney-ABC Television Group's Touchstone Television, has been added to the catalog of shows that can be purchased as a download from Apple Computer Inc.'s iTunes music store for $1.99 per episode.
While TV series for network broadcast are routinely produced by and licensed from studios of competing media companies, the "Scrubs" deal marks the first such partnership for a prime-time program offered via the Internet for commercial download, NBC and ABC said on Wednesday.
Until now, programs made available for online purchase, like ABC's "Desperate Housewives" and NBC's "The Office," have all been productions of their respective "in-house" television studios.
The iTunes inventory of network shows has grown to more than 60 programs since Apple struck a first landmark deal with ABC in October 2005 to provide commercial-free downloads of some of the Disney-owned network's biggest hits for $1.99.
The advent of downloadable TV launched a new revenue stream for broadcasters and a new era of digital portability for consumers, enabling them to play some of their favorite shows anywhere, any time, on video-equipped models of Apple's wildly popular iPod device.
However, the selection of shows that networks were ready to offer for downloads was limited by questions over how they would share revenues on programs produced by third-party TV studios -- a quandary resolved by the "Scrubs" deal.
Neither Disney nor NBC, controlled by General Electric Co., provided financial terms of their arrangement.
But entertainment trade paper Daily Variety reported earlier this month that the two companies were close to a deal that would provide for a 50-50 split of all profits generated by iTunes sales of "Scrubs."
Current-season episodes of the series, starring Zach Braff as a young doctor struggling through his hospital residency, will be available from the NBC "storefront" on iTunes.
Some shows available for video "streaming" on various Web sites, as opposed to downloads, already have come with mixed corporate pedigrees, including the NBC new crime drama "Heist," which is produced in part by Sony Corp's Sony Pictures Television.