Over the last couple of months, NBC’s CEO Jeff Zucker has had a rather public spat with Apple as his company has pulled out of iTunes because apparently Steve wouldn’t let NBC price gouge its consumers for episodes of shows like Heroes and Biggest Loser…so Jeff decided to take the ball and go home. Apparently, NBC thinks that it can do a better job of distributing its own shows by not selling them on its own site: (enter Hulu, stage left) Interestingly enough, if you Google ‘Hulu’, the text clip that follows the site link is “The system is down for maintenance as of 12:18 Pacific Daylight Time. It’ll be back shortly” Normally, you might expect something lame like that from a site that is still in private beta, but NBC could surely do better. Why would they pull their content from iTunes before their replacement was ready?
Then, in late October, NBC also decided to cancel its YouTube channel which was created back in June 2006 for its short clips…but all anyone ever watched was SNL shorts/skits. With that channel, NBC had made YouTube legit in the marketplace and helped lock up the Google acquisition, not to mention it gave NBC street-cred (web-cred?) with online content users (aka everyone under 35). In lieu of it’s YouTube channel, NBC revamped its websites for content: the streaming full episodes are awesome quality (though I wish I didn’t have to switch back to full screen after every commercial break) but if you want a case study for disaster, check out the SNL video page.
Over the past 30 minutes or so, I have browsed the user comments on the site and have seen two positive ones that were about a clip being funny. There are dozens, if not hundreds, of negative comments ranging from the mundane opinions to extreme rants which reminds me of the Wal-Mart vs. Target facebook model discussion Jeremiah had going some weeks ago on his site (and facebook group): Wal-Mart had thousands of negative comments on their facebook group and the hits just kept coming. This is exactly what is happening to NBC on its own site. Some of my favorite comments:
“This site is worthless….now if the clips we want to see aren’t available on this site we cannot see them anywhere. You guys suck.”
“I just want to watch the Lazy Sunday video. It’s fine if you don’t want it on Youtube, but then at least make it accessible somewhere else!”
“IM GOING TO YOUTUBEEEE”
“This site is a joke. Guess what? It’s 2007…YouTube is your friend…viral marketing is good.You think that by controlling the content and then bombarding people with advertising that nobody wants to see is the answer…bad move. $100 bucks says your back on YouTube in a month after this fails miserably.Hire a 4th grader to run your online marketing.”
“your website is a good reflection of where your sho is going.”
“My hatred is palpable for this failure of a website.”
“Even the time is wrong.”
“you know things are f’d up when the ads don’t even work.”
“The fact that every clip starts with an ad proves that you guys suck!”
These are a pretty good cross-section of the comments on the site as of this morning. Let me tell you, I am no web developer, but I think I could build a better video distribution site on my own site (via WordPress). There is no catalog of clips of guide to finding your favorite videos, no way to embed videos on other sites, and when the player does work, they have included front-end advertisements! Didn’t YouTube find the perfect solution to front-end ads, since no one watches them anyway? Oh wait…NBC left YouTube…bummer. NBC has built a widget that you can embed in your website which will display content that NBC will change and update each week. Wait…NBC controls the content? On my site? Hmmm…yeah that’s not going to work for me. Although even if you could control it, good luck finding anything worth displaying: the new site doesn’t have the most recent ‘Digital Shorts’ that have been hugely popular: Lazy Sunday, Iran so Far, and Dick in a Box. The only reason those have been so popular is because they went viral while hosted on YouTube! But good luck finding them anywhere now.
The only good thing I can say about this site is that NBC isn’t moderating the comments. At least they are leaving it open to criticism, which I’m sure is causing quite a few bruised egos around their offices. NBC is completely missing the point on viral marketing and social media: companies no longer control information. Users control everything from what gets watched to how it gets watched. They are really going to have to step up the game on this new site if they want any kind of sizable online presence…and Hulu had better rock…and open up for business sometime very soon.
Tips for NBC:
1) Go back to YouTube…or if our ego is damaged, just rebuild your webiste into a YouTube clone so we can browse, embed, and view whatever content we want.
2) Fire Jeff Zucker…old people only look at immediate, tangible ROI…they don’t understand online community development
3) Scrap Hulu. The name means everything from ‘butt’, ‘cease’, or ‘desist’, depending on what language you are using.
4) Stop whining about iTunes prices. They haven’t nailed down market dominance in the video world yet, but it is only a matter of time and you are going to want to be on board for that. Ever heard of Steve Jobs? He takes no prisoners and once he controls the market, good luck getting into it ever again. Don’t be the Zune of the video market.
5) Heroes is a winner. So is 30 Rock..and I hear some people like Scrubs, too. Run with the good ones, leave the riffraff like Bionic Woman for CBS.
UPDATE: (9:30 pm 11/4/07) TechCrunch just posted a clip of an hilarious iPhone commercial spoof done on Saturday Night Live, but the clip is embedded from YouTube…I wonder how long that will survive before it gets yanked from YouTube only to disappear into the realm of “clips-you-will-never-see-again-because-we-are-afraid-of-the-internets”…
As one insightful TechCrunch reader posted: NBC hates Apple. NBC hates YouTube.
This post is so great in so many ways. As others have mentioned, you have an obviously hacked iPhone clearly displayed on NBC (Apple’s enemy). At the same time, I just watched the clip not on TV, but on YouTube (NBC’s enemy). Probably the most surprising is that this was actually funny, and yet was allowed on Saturday Night Live.
(via TechCrunch 11/4/07)
UPDATE: (11:50 pm 11/4/07) Now you see it, now you don’t! The SNL clip is now down from YouTube, and thus TechCrunch as well…judging by user comments, it came down sometime between 8:15 and 9:30 pm (CST). So now anyone who will read that article over the next few days or weeks will wonder what exactly it was about since they can’t see the clip. I wonder how many thousands of potential viewers NBC is missing out on just from this one post…