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March 06, 2006
NBC's marketing lesson, in 3 acts
Online videos are the new 30-second ads, especially for networks hoping to attract viewers.
Which makes it all the more curious as to why NBC is shooting itself in its viral foot.
Remember Lazy Sunday? It was the hilarious white-guy rap video featured on the network's stalwart (but increasingly unfunny) Saturday Night Live in December. Almost immediately, the video -- not the entire show -- could be found on websites, creating a fast-moving viral video phenomenon. Someone uploaded it to the video hosting site YouTube, where it was viewed more than 5 million times, likely surpassing SNL's total broadcast audience.
The video was so popular that it spawned its own mini-industry:
For several weeks, NBC smartly offers the "SNL Digital Short" as a free download on iTunes, where it quickly become the number-one video download.
Meanwhile, word spreads that SNL has found new life with video star Andy Samberg and writers Akiva Schaffer and Jorma Taccone -- all from The Lonely Island troupe. People I talked to said they watched the video a dozen or more times. Everyone was wondering if SNL had suddenty stopped sucking. There was heightened anticipation for future episodes.
Then things hit the ditch. A few weeks ago, NBC asked YouTube to remove Lazy Sunday from the site, including any other video snippets that might be from its shows. Suddenly, Lazy Sunday cost $1.99 on iTunes.
This kills one of the most remarkable viral marketing campaigns in recent memory. Lazy Sunday was on its way to becoming the next "Blair Witch Project" of marketing.
NBC apparently decides to control virality on its own terms, using its own distribution system. A rap video featuring host Natalie Portman from this weekend's show is available from NBC's website, but it doesn't play on Macs or via Firefox. Strikes 1 and 2. Furthermore, video sharing sites like YouTube are prohibited from showing the new video. Strike 3.
A savvy company would die for the level of free viral marketing that SNL was just beginning to explore and understand, thanks to a 3-minute video clip. Left on its own, the viral effect could have significantly driven up the show's ratings, making it more attractive to advertisers and paving the way for terrific DVD sales. All thanks to a short video clip.
But someone somewhere in the network made a decision that killed the distributed network effect.
Other blogs that reference NBC's marketing lesson, in 3 acts:
» The post about music and video from Mostly Muppet Dot Com
So Ive been playing with last.fm recently and I think I like it, but I know Im not getting all the benefits of the service. For starters Im only recording my work listening which, while significant, isnt all my iTunes usage... [Read More]
Excellent points. Interesting to consider the meetings that went on behind the scenes.
"Look how popular this thing is getting, let's monetize it" someone who manages the P&L probably said.
Embarrassing for them.
I called it "shooting the messenger... in the back."
What more do you expect from your typical, boring media company still living in the TV-Industrial age? Any project that has the smallest speck of risk to it, they shrivel up and run scared. NBC much rather stick to safe and boring projects.
Pulling something that is successful rings of a FOX network maneuver... Hmmm, did that person come from FOX?
Looks like NBC has updated the video to use Flash, so it will work on Macs now.