Original Content and Original Distribution

In the wake of NBC/Universal shuttering their online original content group, NBC Universal Digital Studio, the question of original content and its value comes into play. An AdAge story covering the closure relays NBCU’s statement that they are having a change in strategy to only showing content that supports its shows.  Of course, that seems to be in conflict with what Comcast so richly cherished in the opportunities found in the NBCU purchase by broadening its advertising inventory for its clients to make more money.  Their original content group seemed to be at least lining up some sponsors for its programming.  Perhaps NBC saw the success in the additional digital content from shows like THE OFFICE that did more for generating buzz – which in turn could lead to higher profits in ad sales for the show without the value-ad expenditures that come with original content creation.

The article also referenced Albert Cheng of ABC, when he mentioned that “It could also very well be the nature of the content we were putting on. People weren’t ready for that type of production quality” when referring to the closure of it’s short-lived Studio 9 original content group. That could have been just one point Cheng made, but if that is the guiding principle for closing the studio, it’s a bit mis-guided and shows a lack of knowledge about original content and those who like to consume it.  Regardless of the fact that their sales team couldn’t seem to find any sponsors or the fact that digital original content can have phenomenal production quality due to technology, it shows that they didn’t seem to grasp what was involved with original content either at the start or throughout the group’s short-lived run.

Original content is not an easy arm of broadcast television or cable or film.  Relationships to content, taste and expectations are different.  One of the biggest challenges is in conveying that difference to advertisers and executives who are sometimes expecting that what works on the big or small screen should automatically work on the internet.  Even with an understanding of that specific nuance, the sound distribution element is what is most often the missing piece.

What makes sites like Break, and College Humor successful as distributors is that they have their particular audiences and know them well.  They both have well-developed teams to produce the original content and the series that do well with their audiences.  Crackle is helped by the fact their original content runs among catalog features and TV shows. While YouTube is a great distribution vehicle, there is a bit more work that goes into driving eyeballs to a specific piece due to the breadth of content posted daily.  By using Break and College Humor’s teams – whether production alone or as a media buy, positioning and views are usually much more streamlined and effective.

Hopefully, a model will come for the effective viewing of more types of original content, but it certainly is not in the hands of the broadcasters.  There are developments on the set-top box side outside of the States that could be effective in the distribution of that content.  Imagine having channels that aggregate types of content – sort of like what BoingBoing does with its in-flight programming – that allows passive “streaming” of a viewer’s chosen type of original programming.   We’ll see if NBCU’s Comcast unit makes the decision to be at the forefront of that distribution, as it would absolutely leverage their stable of talent and resources (both production and distribution) and the fact that they actually own the set-top boxes the content would run through…

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