"New site" may not be a YouTube killer. However, there are two problems facing the networks, in my opinion, that are bigger than YouTube, two-fold, and relate back to an essay I wrote earlier this year about network television branding.
The first problem is that the way that consumer habits and technology have evolved have pushed content advertising to a variety of sources, on-and-off-line.
NBC, which I will focus on because it has a strong network-branded online presence, cross-promotes and airs programs on its cable networks (USA, Bravo, Sci Fi), and has agreements with iTunes, YouTube, MSN and AOL and sells programs on DVD, which are also circulated through Netflix. (See this story from Jon Lafayette in TelevisionWeek last September.)
Ubiquity does raise awareness of particular programs, but the effects on network identity and its ability to brand a programming flow are a little murkier. As the record industry has discovered, that increases the pressure to produce more content that people actually want, and makes both hits and flops much more evident.
To get a sense of NBC's current distribution strategy, I looked at video on NBC.com, iTunes, and YouTube. Although these are not the only distribution channels the network uses, they represent three key online platforms: network website, paid downloads, and a video sharing site. I used, as a sample, the shows currently streaming on NBC.com, with the exception of Heroes, which I added back although full episodes were recently removed until the second season.
A full season of all of the series in the comedy or drama categories that are on NBC.com for free were also available on iTunes. "Heroes", not on NBC.com, was the most expensive full season collection. Meanwhile, serialized programs Heroes, 30 Rock, and Friday Night Lights were the most promoted on the YouTube NBC channel, which was otherwise mostly SNL and late-night TV clips.
Cancelled shows like Raines and Andy Barker, PI were available on both NBC.com and iTunes, but not promoted on YouTube. Treatment of reality shows and soaps, which are more time-sensitive, varied, with only more recent episodes on iTunes and NBC.com, and relatively little presence on the YouTube channel.
I provided a full breakdown of how NBC's distribution plays out across all these platforms: