Commentary

Streaming Video Really Needs To Grow Up

NBCUniversal’s new online comedy service, SeeSo, will debut in January. YouTube’s new subscription pay service reportedly will be formally announced this afternoon. (See Around the Net, below.) 

In advance of the real thing, there’s a new SeeSo trailer hyping the $3.99-a-month site. The preview bleeps out four uses of a-very-common four letter word. (Impressive word play! It’s only a 93-second tease). It blurs a doctored version of da Vinci’s “Vitruvian Man” who is giving the finger.

It allows “dick” and “bullshit.”

But it bleeps “shit.”

I guess that just goes over the line at NBCUniversal. I mean, shit is just vulgar.

In 1990, the premiere episode of CBS sitcom “Uncle Buck”  featured a 6-year old girl exclaiming to her 8-year old brother, "Miles, you suck” — and a big chunk of the TV-watching public was mortified. But that line was at least even remotely possible because cable, and solid citizen Rupert Murdoch’s then-new Fox network, pushed boundaries through the late 1980s.

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Now ,on commercial television, it’s commonplace for characters and talk show guests to be be pissed off — and there’s no doubt about it.

So, on the even more liberated Internet, it would seem for $3.99 a month, the leading funny people should be able to say shit.

It is also important for the growing number of subscription pay services to produce better shit. Really, that’s the challenge. SeeSo might be up to it because people like Amy Poehler, Dan Harmon, and the Upright Citizens Brigade, are involved.

But a lot of streaming stuff, like that teaser, is less brilliant and more raw. It doesn’t wear well, and now that there’s going to be some expectation--we're paying for it--it better be better. 

About the only online services that demonstrably proves its value are the two biggest ones: Netflix and Amazon.

YouTube’s pay service will cost around $10 according to some early reports. That seems to be a lot to pay for a heretofore free service, and actually for any service. That’s Netflix pricing territory.

YouTube is rightfully famous for its roster of very popular YouTube personalities, but almost all of them started by producing user generated content that usually young viewers found for free. That is part of the allure and the mystique of its stars. They got no helping hands, except from the fans who found them. It is a symbiotic relationship.

The pay version would seem to remove most of that discovery process, leaving the paid user with a very different experience. Maybe it’ll be better, more premium fare--the networks are involved--and videos will likely be available on the pay platform before sprinkling down to the original site.

But very likely, that sense of community won’t come with the sales tag.

Peter Csathy, CEO of Manatt Digital Media, had an excellent VideoInk piece that featured some fascinating anonymous insights from MCNs and creators who aren’t very sold on the YouTube pay version. Or, just don’t care because they just don’t care about YouTube as much as they once did. 

He told StreamDaily he also wonders who’ll pay up. “A lot of these users are kids, [and] they don’t have credit cards,” he said. “They’re trained to watch YouTube for free, as they have over the years, and they may continue to do so.”

The online subscription models may believe they exist on the Internet sales floor. But cable may have taught consumers that what’s promised by video providers rarely lives up to the billing, and that attitude may inform their decisions as more services are offered. We’ll see.


pj@mediapost.com
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