After much celebration and a miniseries involving a secretive Dan Harmon led cult, NBCU’s new comedy streaming service SeeSo is live and in beta. For people with access codes, it’s free, and free as in no credit card required for signup free. When the beta expires in January, it will be $3.99 a month, a price that NBC is hoping will be low enough to keep comedy fans coming back after those first thirty days. This is an important play by NBCU as it allows them a single source for all their comedy content, an entry into the burgeoning OTT space, and a destination for new titles that may not have played as well in the traditional broadcast space, but should play well online.
The first thing you notice upon logging into SeeSo is the fact that something automatically starts playing. There has been a lot made of this in the press lead up, but seeing it live had an oddly compelling effect. You’re instantly given something to consume, even if it isn’t necessarily what you want to see.
The first thing that greeted me was the pilot of the new “Cyanide and Happiness” series, which I had already seen at the preview event. What was more impressive was what followed in the queue—a testament to the power of SeeSo’s catalogue. Queued after this were episodes of “30 Rock,” the British “Office,” and both clips and full episodes of “SNL.”
The British comedy backbench is extensive, with full series runs of “A Bit Of Fry And Laurie,” “Fawlty Towers,” and “The Mighty Boosh.” Their “Monty Python” selection is impressive, boasting the full series library, the films, and potentially most impressive, the German “Fliegender Zirkus” series.
SeeSo is in beta right now. Their original content pipeline is limited at best, but will increase to 20 new series once they move out of beta. One interesting thing to note is the fact that they do have one thing that Netflix is lacking at this moment —season 7 of “Parks and Recreation.”
Season 7 has been absent from Netflix for some time now, though present on Hulu. Its non-appearance defied the traditional late-September/early-October release window that the previous seasons had been granted. An assumption could be made that part of the reason for this delay has something to do with NBCUni reevaluating the streaming rights it shares with other services, given that networks are not making full current season stacks available other places than Hulu for legal reasons, a major sticking point with the MVPDs.
A comedy-focused OTT network is a strategic bet for the network that gave the world “Seinfeld,” “Cheers,” and “Friends.” Recent NBC bows into comedy have not been as successful in the ratings as their forbearers, and one of the most recent home brewed successes became a hit for Netflix after the peacock passed on the pilot. That’s why one of the more interesting recent television “what-ifs” involves “Kimmy Schmidt” premiering on NBC in a traditional weekly format rather than all at once on Netflix and guessing what its success (and number of “Pinot Noir” covers) would have been.
Comedically-speaking, NBC is currently lacking an identity. A CBS or ABC comedy is obvious at a glance, but NBC has been scaling down its efforts, with the comedies it does produce lacking a cohesive feel. Ideally SeeSo will reverse this trend.
At this time SeeSo is only available via a desktop browser. Whether that will remain the same remains to be seen. For me personally, as someone who’s been reluctant to watch an Amazon series based on a book he likes due to lack of AppleTV app, this could be a decisive factor against it. The churn post-beta could be high as well given the lack of required credit card required on signup should new original content not be quickly deployed. However, for the right sort of comedy fan, their library could be enough to negate that deficit at the time.