Despite Weak Moment for NBC Sitcoms, NBC Universal Plots Subscription Video Site for Comedy

'SNL' and 'Tonight Show' Already Circulate Widely Online

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'About a Boy,' one of NBC's comedies.
'About a Boy,' one of NBC's comedies. Credit: NBC
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Comcast's NBC Universal said it's developing an online subscription video service dedicated to comedy shows, the media conglomerate's latest effort to pursue young viewers who are watching less conventional TV.

The service will blend existing NBC shows with new programming, according to a network executive who asked not to be identified because the plans are preliminary. It will be available no earlier than the fourth quarter of the year, according to the person, who wouldn't discuss pricing.

Many details of the strategy remain unclear, however. Word of the plan emerges, for example, as the company's flagship NBC network has said goodbye to its variously popular but acclaimed comedies "Parks and Recreation," "Community," "30 Rock" and "The Office."

Since the network jettisoned that brand of comedy for more inclusive, theoretically big-audience shows, none of its new sitcoms has become a hit. Of those that survived to see a second season, none saw a third.

NBC has 13 sitcom pilots in development next season, compared with 18 in the works this time a year ago. Four of those made it to the schedule.

"The Tonight Show" and "Saturday Night Live" seem to be the main network's biggest comedy assets, although many of their sketches are available online already. New and library "SNL" clips stream free on Yahoo, for example, under a deal struck in 2013.

NBC Universal, which operates the NBC broadcast network and cable channels including USA and Bravo, joins CBS Corp., Viacom and Time Warner in creating online subscription offerings to squeeze extra money out of their shows. Several major media companies reported lower domestic advertising sales in the final three months of 2014.

The companies see online services as an opportunity to tap the growing audience of younger viewers who may not subscribe to pay TV. NBC is part owner in Hulu, an online TV service owned with 21st Century Fox and Walt Disney Co.

The Wall Street Journal reported earlier on NBC's plans. The network is considering charging from $2.50 to $3.50 a month, the newspaper reported.

~ Bloomberg News and Advertising Age ~