And Now For Something Completely OTT…

Taking advantage of its deep arsenal of comedy, NBCU announced the launch of its new OTT subscription channel “SeeSo.” The new channel is meant to be a focused response to the “all things to all people” approach that NBCU sees the other players in the OTT space taking to new content. Retailing for $3.99/month, the channel will have ad free libraries of some of the Peacock’s classics, like “30 Rock“ and “The Office”, as well as beloved comedy series like “Monty Python’s Flying Circus” and “Kids In The Hall.” There will be late night comedy and standup as well as up to 20 new series, including shows by Dan Harmon, Wyatt Cenac, and the Upright Citizens Brigade. These original series will be a major selling point for SeeSo moving forwards.

What’s uncertain is what will happen to all of the content that SeeSo will be utilizing that already lives elsewhere, in places like Netflix and Hulu. Currently, neither “The Office” nor “30 Rock “are available on Hulu; the UK edition of “The Office” is, but that’s due to Hulu’s deal with the BBC. Both series are available on Netflix, and it is unclear as to what, if any, rights NBC has in terms of bringing these shows to their own service. While they may be Universal Productions-created series, the deals NBC initially struck may prevent them from bringing the content in-house. This situation echoes Discovery CEO David Zaslav’s statement last month in which he claimed that current deals with Netflix were “not rational” and warned that “all of us in the content business sold our content to a distributor and have allowed that distributor to gain so much share and offer it without our brands.”

Should NBC become more rational with its OTT distribution deals, it will be interesting to see what happens once those contracts are up for renewal. If they can bring some of their own series back into the fold, the network’s value for consumers increases. Otherwise, the main selling points will continue to be the nostalgia factor of things like “Monty Python” along with the yet unnamed new series. As for YouTube, it seems unlikely that NBCU will pull any content from the service, as they just signed a new agreement with Google to allow for ads to be sold alongside the videos.

 At an event at the School of Visual Arts Theater in Manhattan, NBC’s Vice President of Digital Enterprises, Evan Shapiro, talked up the service to a crowd on the opening night of the New York Television Festival. A brief demo video of the service was played, highlighting the fact that a piece of content will start playing immediately upon the user’s login and would continue to play while they searched for new content. The platform boats the full back catalogue of “Saturday Night Live,” which had previously only been available on Yahoo. They also showcased a large British library, something Dan Harmon later joked in a rap was “cheaper” than other content. Other than the announced titles, they also announced the full runs of shows like “A Bit Of Fry and Laurie”, “The Mighty Boosh”, and the “Python” films before showing the premiere episode of the first original animated series, “Cyanide and Happiness.” The series will be spaced out at an episode a week rather than all at once, allowing for conversation to grow in the old water cooler style, an elegant weapon for a more civilized age that the SeeSo app boasts ownership of.

Harmon was the special guest for the night, taking on everything from his recent divorce, the exact hotel room he’s staying in, to his traditional game of Dungeons and Dragons. The D&D campaign is the basis of his new show, an animated “Dinner For Five” of sorts that brings together Harmon, his regular Dungeon Master, and celebrity friends to play a campaign whose adventures are animated. The truncated game the audience was treated to featured as many SeeSo tie-ins as Harmon and his guests could muster, proving that even for a pure OTT play, Harmon could bring a Jack Donaghy level of synergy.

With the launch of SeeSo, it sounds like Harmon’s final remarks from the Yahoo season of “Community” may be coming to pass. With NBC having ad free, user paid, and completely measurable content, the full value of an NBCU comedy can be finally know – “Viewers may be measured by a secretive obsolete system based on selected participants keeping handwritten journals of what they watch. Show may be cancelled and moved to the Internet where it turns out tens of millions were watching the whole time. May not matter.”