NBC may be having an uptick in comedy shows as of late but its real comedy backbone right now is its streaming service, Seeso. That’s not a bold statement in the slightest. The Good Place and Great News are two of the best comedies of the year. Trial & Error and Superstore had solid enough ratings all year to contend against shows on other networks. Even Powerless had its DC Comics connection. But that’s all the shows they had. Five series compared to ABC’s two night, two hour block juggernaut, Fox’s years old shows along with newcomer The Mick, and CBS’s weeklong tear on every other broadcast network. Having been a subscriber since day one (and a beta tester since its initial release), I find that NBC could do a lot more to get Seeso noticed.
What is Seeso?
It’s NBCUniversal’s comedy streaming service that’s for comedy nerds and lightweight fans alike. Classic shows from Monty Python and Saturday Night Live are mixed in with newcomers from Jonah Ray and Kulap Vilaysak. Some of Jimmy Fallon’s Tonight Show and Seth Meyers’s Late Night live on the service as well. There are movies, comedy specials, and taped live shows from Wyatt Cenac and the UCB. It’s a paradise for comedy fans. And it’s only $4 a month. But not all is well.
Seeso is in danger of falling apart. Losing a head of the service is one thing but there are significant issues across the board. The app and website aren’t anywhere near par. Advertising of the service is nonexistent. Discoverability is just as bad. There needs to be a semblance of a working streaming network here. The competition gains new subscribers because they have clear messaging. Seeso needs to clearly state what it is before it expects to continue for another year.
One of the biggest issues for the streamer is NBC doesn’t show it off. The network used to be the place for “must see TV” and “comedy night done right” with shows like Friends, Seinfeld, The Office, My Name Is Earl, Community, 30 Rock, Parks and Recreation and the countless dramas. Now it sends its newest shows out to die by airing them two episodes at a time over the course of a handful of weeks (Great News). Or air a show through the winter, put it on hiatus for two months and air the last three episodes (The Good Place). Yes, this is a tactic they use for a reason but it does not help put confidence in new shows (even though Great News and The Good Place were both picked up for second seasons).
What should NBC do to make its streaming shows a success? Throughout the summer season, when TV is mostly derelict of new shows, air episodes of the streaming shows. How many viewers would be gained for Hidden America or Bajillion Dollar Propertie$ if NBC paired the two for one night during the week? The pilots are put on Seeso’s YouTube page; this would help supplement that.
New fans come via discovery. Jonah Ray’s fans already know he has a show. Vilaysak’s fans renew their Seeso memberships whenever Bajillion returns. Imagine how many converts will be ecstatic to see a send up of their favorite property shows. Burning Love made the jump to television and it did well enough to garner another season. It couldn’t hurt to air episodes. During breaks, NBC could say something along the lines of “watch the entire series on Seeso for only $4 a month.” They could name the night “Supersized Seeso” or something of that nature.
Today Show (and other interviews)
Speaking of airing it on NBC, give your talent an outlet to speak about the shows. They need to be in late night as much as possible. The 10 AM hour of the Today Show is known for its silliness. So many comedians would work well with the liquored up Hoda and Kathy Lee. Paul F. Tompkins would KILL on Conan (and save viewers from yet another Big Bang Theory cast member interview). Tawny Newsome would gel with Meyers. Tim Baltz could do some damage even on Chelsea Handler’s show thing on Netflix. Since the beginning, every single one of these comedians has relied on Twitter, word of mouth and podcasts appearances (that don’t pay) in order to get these shows that they work incredibly hard on noticed. NBC, throw them a bone and get them on with Hoda and Kathy Lee.
To add to that, a show based on Johnny Carson called There’s…Johnny! is about to air. I would think that a show from Paul Reiser based on the man who shaped late night into what it is today would get just a little bit of a push.
Seeso is still unavailable overseas. It’s almost been a year since its unveiling and longer since the beta. Why can’t our friends across the ocean get in on this comedy fun? It doesn’t make sense. That’s what leads to torrenting, guys. Even airing the shows on NBC would help those without access to Seeso get into the shows just a little bit easier.
In Jesse David Fox’s (Vulture) examination of Evan Shapiro’s exit, he wrote that Seeso’s future is not set in stone. Actually, it’s probably on its last legs. And that’s a shame. Executives come and go from networks and media presences all the time but Seeso should have a better life than this. Shapiro is no slouch in the resume department with his tenure at IFC and Pivot TV (whatever that is). Via his Twitter, Shapiro linked to an article about the difficulty of running a startup which seemed to suggest NBCUniversal’s hand in the ordeal.
Fox points out that the corporate nature of the company and Seeso’s indie feel didn’t gel. They’re building off already established fan bases, particularly in the podcast world. Maggie Suniewick (president of NBCU digital enterprises) has taken over Shapiro’s role and she ultimately has the final say on what will become of the streamer. And there’s no telling what would become of the shows should Seeso cease to exist. Suniewick should look for a permanent person to take the position who could lead the network to new heights.
Where does Seeso go from here?
Seeso is not the best streaming platform. But it’s the funniest. Specials from people who haven’t had their chance to shine are wonderful. Shows where comedians who previously didn’t have a voice that can now do what they wish is sensational. NBCU could do more to make it feel like a part of the family. They did right by adding it to Amazon Channels. Simply advertising it would prove to be enough. Seeso could take on a new section of the streaming world if it just had a little push.
If you’re interested in Seeso, here’s a sample of its offerings.
Take My Wife starring Rhea Butcher and Cameron Esposito as exaggerated versions of themselves. It’s funny and can often be a little sad.
Shrink starring Tim Baltz as a Chicago native with half a million in debt. He has to go through over 1700 hours of clinical therapy before he can be paid and treated as a real therapist.
Standup specials from Jena Friedman, Lachlan Patterson and Laurie Kilmartin. C+ Comedy has interviewed each person for the specials. They’re very funny people (as they should be or else I wouldn’t have featured them here).