August 16, 2007
New Site: To Aggregate or Not to Aggregate? (1 of 4)

"New Site" is not new. The joint, billion-dollar, working-titled venture between NBC Universal and News Corp. was announced almost six months ago. Late last week, however, The New York Times reported that Providence Equity Partners, a "media investment firm," bought a 10% stake in "new site" for $100 million.

In the next four posts, I will first do a quick analysis of NBC's current distribution strategy, then look at each of the two problems facing the networks, and finally examine why NBC has partnered with FOX to ultimately address the question: "To Aggregate or not to aggregate?"

So, why is NBC, which already has a popular network website partnering with FOX, which doesn't, to spend $1 billion (now effectively $900m) on "new site," and why is Providence contributing $100 million dollars to the effort?

Maybe in part because You Tube Harris Interactive conducted a poll in late 2006 that showed, although adults are watching shows on network TV sites, 18- to 24 year-olds in particular are watching YouTube more often.

NBC has a strong network site presence, running neck-and-neck with ABC at about 9 million unique visitors each, and in March, it was reported that NBC was getting about 37% of network website traffic to ABC's 33.6%.

Unfortunately, those numbers pale in comparison to YouTube's and Google Video's 150 million unique visitors in March. Clearly, networks would like more of that traffic flowing to their sites, especially if those visitors are watching copyrighted content.

But was "new site" conceived as a YouTube killer? Notwithstanding all of the copyright infringement lawsuits, I don't think so. It has legions of fans, making a direct attack a potential PR nightmare of the network Goliaths versus millions of "produser" Davids. Millions of people watch network clips and promos on YouTube, which would seem to benefit the networks. Millions more people also visit YouTube for the "dancing cat" videos, weblogs and mashups that FOX and NBC don't produce, making YouTube, in many ways, a compliment, not a competitor, to network sites.