Such is the case with YouTube.com, which offered up a free download of a short "Saturday Night Live" sketch. NBC itself also offers the sketch free on its Web site. But NBC told YouTube to give the skit the heave-ho.
Why? Perhaps this could lead to abuse. Perhaps someone would get too crazy and start promoting other shows, real crappy ones. Then what? I don't know. Perhaps they could climb out of last place.
NBC's official response to YouTube is this: "We're taking a long and careful look at how to protect our content," said a spokeswoman, who added that the company means no ill will toward fan sites.
This is backward thinking. Buzz marketing, viral marketing, word-of-mouth marketing is what network marketing executives should be dreaming about, efforts which can coolly relaunch shows, or tout quality--but underappreciated--shows. Viral marketing may be imperfect--but it could be the answer in an age of fractionalization.
NBC needs really cool Internet partners in addition to its mainstream, and the cool partner it has with iTunes Music Store. NBC says the iTunes connection helped raised the profile of "The Office" with a high number of downloads. NBC says this, and the show's recent move to Thursday behind "My Name is Earl" have lifted ratings for "The Office."
That seems to be a good lesson--now, take it further. NBC's iTunes deal is an official one; the YouTube.com download is not. YouTube officials say VH1 and other producers have no problem in putting video on its site, all to get a chance for some viral marketing spin.
In this age of hard-to-come-by marketing dollars and diminishing show ratings, you would think NBC would know better--even accounting for its concern about illegal, pirated downloading. Stuff will always get lost between the cracks, no matter how perfect the protection technologies may be.
Right now, YouTube.com is the type of crack you want to fall into.