You got to admit one thing about the TV networks. Unlike the digitally-careful print media, these TV guys are willing to experiment with digital strategies, fail, dust themselves off, then try something new in hopes it will stick.
Just look at NBC Universal this week. They start off with the beta launch of Hulu, the online joint venture with News Corp. that was first touted as a “YouTube killer” but ended up being a boutique streaming site for the networks’ content.
A couple of days later, NBC U president and chief executive officer Jeff Zucker spits on Apple, saying the Steve Jobs-led company has “destroyed the music business” and must be stopped before it does the same to video. Just a few months earlier, Zucker said NBC Universal was pulling all of its content off iTunes when the network failed to get what it wanted in contract renegotiations with Apple, a bold move to be sure.
Now NBC U is reported to be shutting down its stand alone comedy site, DotComedy.com, according to Mike Shields of MediaWeek. Shield’s sources indicate that DotComedy, which launched in mid-2006 as a part of NBC’s focus on digital media, will fold and move the site’s content and traffic to NBC.com and, presumably, Hulu.
The idea behind DotComedy was to create a Web destination that presented a mixture of original content, classic standup performances, clips from NBC shows such as “Saturday Night Live” and “Late Night with Conan O’Brien”. But NBC quickly discovered that this type of content is found elsewhere on the Web, namely YouTube.
DotComedy has struggled to gain a foothold since its inception. Its traffic fell below Nielsen Online’s minimum reporting threshold twice over the past three months. It peaked with 246,000 unique visitors in August.
So, it appears, NBC U is willing to axe DotComedy, repackage its content to other NBC Web properties, and move on to the next thing on its digital strategy to do list — Hulu, NBC Direct, something we haven’t seen yet.
It’s admirable, really, to see a Big Media network take chances. Knocking down YouTube or iTunes a notch or two from their lofty perches isn’t going to happen without trying. And failure.