If you're Comcast-owned NBC, getting into the streaming media game is a tough challenge. As a cable television giant, Comcast is devoting much of its streaming focus on rolling out its XFinity authenticated streaming platform. The downside for NBC is that XFinity is (at least for now) only available to current cable TV subscribers. So in this new viewing world of skinny bundles, cord cutters and mobile viewing, finding a streaming sweet spot that both has commercial potential and doesn't conflict with the parent company's desire to hold the traditional cable bundle together can be a challenge.
One answer to that conundrum appears to be Seeso, a streaming subscription comedy channel currently in Beta until it's official launch on January 7th. Since it is still in Beta this is a brief review that I'll flesh out again near the official launch date.
For a monthly fee of $3.99, subscribers to Seeso will have access to more than 2,000 hours of comedy, ranging from NBC's late night talk shows to classic comedy television and original programming created especially for Seeso.
The programming includes a lot of what you would expect to see as part of a NBC/Universal streaming platform. There are next-day full-length episodes of "The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon" and "Late Night with Seth Meyers" along with a forty-year archive of episodes and clips from "Saturday Night Live."
There are a number of familiar NBC comedies, including "The Office," "Parks And Recreation," "30 Rock" and "Saved By The Bell." British TV is also well represented on Seeso, with shows such as "The Mighty Boosh," "A Bit Of Fry And Laurie," "Mighty Python's Flying Circus" and the U.K. version of "The Office."
Seeso has also made a major commitment to original programming, with shows such as "The UCB Show," from hosts, creators and Upright Citizens Brigade founders Matt Besser, Amy Poehler, Ian Roberts and Matt Walsh; "Dave and Ethan: Lovemakers," from Broadway Video’s Above Average Productions; "Sammy J & Randy in Ricketts Lane," a musical comedy about mismatched housemates – one attorney, one puppet; "Before the Morning After," featuring some of the world’s best comedians, drunk in a diner at 2 a.m. at The Edinburgh Fringe Festival; and animated sketch series "The Cyanide & Happiness Show," based on the popular web comic.
Individual reviews of some of the original shows will be coming later in December, but I will say that overall, the made-for-Seeso programs are entertaining and often inventive. But after spending some time with Seeso, my biggest question centers around the value proposition. Is it ultimately worth $3.99 a month?
At this point, I'm not convinced. I love comedy and in fact spent more than a decade doing stand-up comedy. I should be the target audience for a streaming service devoted to comedy. And yet for me the original programming doesn't provide enough value to convince me that this is a streaming service I'd pay for each month. A number of the former NBC titles have been seen on other streaming services and/or are pretty familiar to fans at this point. Having so much comedy aggregated in one place is handy, but is it $3.99 a month handy?
In the future, I'd love to see Seeso take advantage of the Universal Studio library and offer a deeper dive of obscure television comedies. It's not only content that Seeso should have access to, it's also the type of "classic" programming that isn't being streamed anywhere else right now. There's also a place for a beefed-up comedy movie offering, since Seeso currently only includes a number of movies from the Monty Python library.
On a technical side, Seeso's interface is clean and everything streams smoothly. while it's currently only available on the web and on iOs and Android phones, the company promises to roll the service out to other platforms "soon."
I like the idea of Seeso and it certainly makes sense for NBC. I'm not convinced the service is at the right price point, even if it doesn't include ads. $3.99 seems to be a lot to pay for content which is certainly entertaining, although not all that exclusive.