In mid June, Variety suggested the end times were near for the current business model of NBC’s comedy-centric streaming platform, Seeso, which premiered January 2016 with the promise of being site for comedy lovers of all stripes and a streaming library that included Saturday Night Live, current late night programming, and Monty Python’s Flying Circus. Now the company has reportedly been “laying off staff members as part of an ongoing change,” while other “staffers are being reassigned to other units within NBCUniversal Digital Enterprises.” The news comes just over a month after Vulture learned Evan Shapiro, the executive vice president of NBCUniversal Digital Enterprises who launched Seeso, would be stepping down from his post as Maggie Suniewick, the digital wing’s newly promoted president, took over.
Despite the apparent “re-organization,” however, Variety and Vulture report new original programming — like the fictional Tonight Show tale There’s… Johnny! — will continue to premiere through 2017. After that it’s anybody’s guess, as the latter cites multiple sources who believe “the service is, for all intents and purposes, on its way out.” In followup emails, Uproxx has learned that “no decisions have been made at this time,” and “it’s currently business as usual” at Seeso. Whether or not this continues to be true remains to be seen, but with Shapiro’s departure and the churning rumor mill, things aren’t looking so great.
There’s a chance to reverse this, however, and it rests with something the service is already doing well. For as entertaining as shows like Hidden America with Jonah Ray and Take My Wife are, the streaming platform has distributed some of the best specials of the past 18 months. Recognizable names like Janeane Garofalo and Brian Posehn count themselves among these offerings, but the real goods lie in material offered by lesser-known acts like former SNL player Sasheer Zamata and experimental wunderkind Rory Scovel. If the powers that be concentrated their efforts on producing or securing the rights to similarly fantastic hours from up-and-coming comedians, re-branded themselves accordingly, and began targeting an underserved audience of stand-up fans, Seeso just might survive.
“Hold on a minute,” you’re probably thinking. “The Netflix comedy boom is in full swing, so what’s the point of competing against that?” It’s a fair question, as the streaming giant recently premiered one new special a week in May — including new releases by Tracy Morgan, Norm Macdonald and Sarah Silverman. The service also released new specials by Lady Dynamite‘s Maria Bamford and The Daily Show‘s Hasan Minhaj, entertainers who aren’t as well known for their stand-up. Yet Netflix got its start propelling comics like Brooklyn Nine-Nine‘s Chelsea Peretti and Chelsea Lately alum Jen Kirkman, so there’s no reason why Seeso cannot do (or continue doing) the same.