Despite their ownership stake in Hulu, NBC is looking to create their own subscription-streaming service with a focus on comedy for a few dollars a month according to Variety. So, look out Netflix? Watch yo ass Crackle?
NBC’s comedy subscription VOD offering could be stocked with content including full episodes of such shows as “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon” and “Saturday Night Live,” according to the Wall Street Journal, which first reported on the plans. However, no decisions about what programming will be part of the package have been made, a source familiar with NBCUniversal’s plans said.
NBCU is mulling a price in the ballpark of $2.50 to $3.50 per month for the comedy SVOD service. In addition to episodes of full-length TV shows, the service also is envisioned to include original series. The digital comedy originals could potentially feature stars from NBCU’s television shows; but, again, that’s just an idea at the moment.
The appeal of using a digital channel to recruit young talent and explore bold ideas is understandable, especially when you look at NBC’s current stable of comedies, but the goal is surely to port that talent over to the mothership, and similar relationships — CW’s CW Seed — haven’t exactly been talent pipelines.
The chance to see new content isn’t likely what will drive people to subscribe to this service when it eventually debuts, though. People have Funny or Die, College Humor, YouTube, and a host of other places to find fresh comedy in the digital realm. What will sell NBC’s service is the NBC library.
Forget about current episodes. As long as NBC doesn’t pull Jimmy Fallon’s Tonight Show and Saturday Night Live off of Hulu in an effort to drive people to subscribe to this eventual service — and in that both shows get a ton of buzz off of viral clips, I can’t see that happening — there is nothing unique about those shows that NBC can use to sell this service. What people want that they cannot easily find elsewhere is classic episodes of Saturday Night Live, Late Night with Conan O’Brien, Late Night with David Letterman, Johnny Carson’s Tonight Show and the like.
Presently, if you have a need to go back and watch old Saturday Night Live episodes or clips, you’ve got a lot of options available to you. Seasons 37 and 38 are on Netflix, the first five seasons and the last ten seasons are on Hulu Plus, and there are a host of classic and current SNL clips on Yahoo Screen and on the just released SNL IOS app. Basically, it’s a mess, and if you want to watch episodes with Eddie Murphy, Billy Crystal, Dana Carvey, and Will Ferrell, best of luck.
The same thing goes for watching stuff from Conan and Letterman’s early years (though, YouTube can sometimes be your friend in that pursuit), and Carson. This stuff is just sitting somewhere waiting to be monetized. Hopefully this service makes use of those untapped resources to make a well-stocked and user-friendly digital entity that will allow fans to search through the great, the good, and even the bad from NBC’s late night comedy history. Not to put too grand a point on it, but this stuff isn’t just comedy, it’s history and it should be available to people who want to learn about it and appreciate it. People like me. Stake my money and make me smile, NBC. If you do, I’ll watch The Slap. Promise.