August 16, 2007
New Site: To Aggregate or Not to Aggregate? (3 of 4)

So, what could all of this mean in terms of strategy for NBC? I think the removal of Heroes from the site is a somewhat misguided attempt to get people to buy the DVDs or go to iTunes, when putting them online free of charge weeks before the fall lineup premiers might actually encourage people to join the series in season two and help the programs ratings and following in the longer term.

And people who really want to watch Heroes may now turn to the torrents. A recent study found that most Americans don't like downloading video, so the actions with Heroes may also be a bid to get people who would have watched online in the habit of paying for content directly.

The choice of programs featured on YouTube may be an effort to appeal to the 18-24 year old demographic and focus creating buzz for the on-air and upcoming, rather than try to resurrect or find a "long tail" audience for programs that have been cancelled.

In the context of "new site", this quick analysis raises some interesting questions. Would older episodes eventually be a pay-per-view/download through the same site as free, streaming content? Would older or cancelled programming be an ongoing part of the service, or would it go to other distribution channels like iTunes, Netflix, or DVD? Would those moves help to build the television network brand, or dilute it?

The relative success, at least in viewership, of the site suggested that it was indeed possible to get good traffic by housing programming under one, network-branded, roof supported by an ad-revenue business model, even while distributing the content elsewhere.

The second problem, however, is that people like to get all of their content in one place and, I would argue, don't necessarily think of the network when they want to find a specific program. In a world where I can go to the torrents or YouTube and type in SNL or Heroes and get access to the video, why would I take the trouble to figure out which network the programs are on, go to, and open the video player, perhaps only to discover that the first season of Heroes is no longer there. If you don't put your content online, someone else will.

So, perhaps the purpose behind "new site" is just to give audiences what they seem to want: a centralized place to get access to content from a variety of sources. Although it isn't clear what exactly the site will look like, it could go in a number of directions. It could further a move to a "publishing" model of content delivery and development, where individual programs are sought out and consumed outside the medium of broadcast television. On the other hand, as Sam Ford has written about the Joost model, it could look more like a television screen with two branded channels and VOD-style content.