April 9, 2007
NBC Makes an Effort to Explicitly Embrace a Social Network Around Its Content

The NBC network is launching its own explicitly titled social network for fans of NBC programming, with a site that's gone public but which is expected to pick up steam in its full launch this June.

According to this preview page, the NBC.com social network will include message boards and groups, as well as blogs, a function to maintain buddies through the NBC social network, and personal profiles to manage. Basically, it will try to incorporate many of the popular features of sites like MySpace and Facebook except built specifically around NBC media content.

For now, the site provides links to various blogs, online videos, and message boards that NBC currently has located at various places around its Web site, with the plan for this social network to combine all of these various sites into a centralized space, from the sound of the preview material.

The site includes links to various NBC videos available through the Web, as well as message boards for daytime, primetime, and latenight programming and blogs for NBC producers, actors, and even characters.

The idea to centralize these social network functions into one location might be helpful from a user standpoint and certainly should be from a management standpoint, but the key will be creating significant links to the individual pages for the various types of programming.

Criticism will likely be driven specifically at the question as to whether, if people already have their social networks built, they will want to start joining a new social network specifically around each provider of media content they enjoy. Rather than going to MySpace or Facebook or other communities where people already congregate, this model seeks to create networking around NBC content. That idea of creating social ties around content is a strong one, and I'm not claiming that this is a bad idea, but with an increasingly niche number of media brands providing content, there is also danger in expecting people to engage in a new social networking program for every show they are fans of, which has to have some limit as far as people's willingness to engage in that many different locations.

Nevertheless, despite the narrow focus, I think this type of centralized space will prioritize social connections with the fan community among networks, primarily because having a division of the company or the site dedicated to such activities makes the organization put a focus on those activities in a way that random message boards or blogs here or there on the site does not.

Enabling social connectedness around texts may not do much for ratings if Nielsen families aren't involved, but it deepens people's connections with the texts and the network as a whole, and I hope that NBC will be putting serious effort into centralizing the type of behaviors that they have cultures with Heroes for some of their other shows as well.

Thanks to Ivan Askwith for alerting me to the NBC announcement.