NBC throwing stuff at the wall

The TV networks get plenty of criticism for being totally out to lunch, so maybe it’s worth noticing when they try to do something right, or at least show that they’re interested in breaking down the walls (or some of them at least) between TV and the Internet. In that spirit, I think it’s interesting to look at what NBC is doing on a couple of fronts. The biggest development is the announcement on Tuesday that they are launching something called NBBC — the National Broadband Broadcasting Company — whose job it will be to distribute TV content online, through as many outlets as possible.

According to the New York Times, this all stems from the “holy sh*t” moment (my term, not theirs) that NBC experienced when they saw the hilarious Lazy Sunday clip from Saturday Night Live get viewed by about seven million people inside of a week — over the holidays, at that — and they wound up with bupkis. As an NBC executive said in the NYT story:

When ‘Saturday Night Live’ had a great clip of Lazy Sunday, YouTube made a lot of money off it… In the future, when we have a Lazy Sunday clip, NBBC will make a lot of money on it.

Fred Wilson of A VC thinks that NBC is being smart by “micro-chunking” their content (a term he got from Umair Haque of Bubblegeneration). Not everyone is convinced that NBC is doing things the right way, however. As the NYT story points out, the network is planning to take a much larger proportion of the advertising revenue than other video distribution outlets — but then NBC also spent vast sums of money to develop the shows it is distributing, unlike most of the content that is put up at Google or Revver.

It’s also worth asking whether NBC isn’t trying to be a little too “walled garden” about the whole thing (as Adam Kalsey says). It’s not clear what sort of restrictions there will be on the content as far as viewing it is concerned — will fast-forwarding be disabled, for example? — but what is clear is that NBC has no interest in letting you insert video in your blog or anything like that, even if there is a “pre-roll” video.

Jeff Jarvis says this is stupid (and has a typically shy and retiring headline: “Numbnuts Broadcasting Company”) and I think he might be right. Why not let people distribute your video for you? Brightcove can make it work — check out Jeremy Allaire’s keynote at the NAB conference for a demo — so why not NBC?

The other announcement from NBC is also interesting: the network is going to stream all of its new fall shows — using a new, large-format player on its site — for free, supported by ads. Does NBC know what it’s doing? That’s not clear. But hey, at least it’s trying.


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