Just in case you thought the streaming service landscape wasn't fragmented enough, NBC has added another option to the pile with the announcement of SeeSo, an online streaming service focused solely on comedy. For $3.99 a month, users will be able to watch shows like 30 Rock and The Office (including the original UK version, if SeeSo's promotional artwork is any indication), along with original shows from the likes of Wyatt Cenac and Dan Harmon. Classic comedy programming is also part of the package, with SeeSo touting exclusives on Monty Python's Flying Circus and The Kids in the Hall.
As Recode's Peter Kafka reports, the service is opening as a beta in December, with the full service going live in January of 2016. SeeSo will also be ad-free, a point that's mentioned numerous times on the beta site and on SeeSo's Twitter page. It's an obvious swipe at both YouTube and Hulu, which both currently have NBC video content of varying types and could be seen as direct competitors to SeeSo. (Kafka also reports that while NBCUniversal had discussed pulling clips from Saturday Night Live and The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon off YouTube, the company has opted instead to leave them as-is.)
This isn't the future of streaming television we were hoping for
As for why somebody would be interested in taking on another monthly subscription fee, the hope appears to be that targeting a specific niche will allow SeeSo to stand out from the already-entrenched major players like Netflix and Amazon. "Big streaming services have created a paradox of choice — they're great if you know exactly what to watch, but if you aren't in the middle of a binge, the search can be near endless," said Evan Shapiro, NBCUniversal's executive vice president of digital enterprises. "By focusing on a specific, yet large niche, and providing a curated experience, we can help viewers find good stuff they might not or cannot find." While that may seem like a bit of a stretch, it's important to remember that this is also the exact same way that many cable channels work: offering extremely focused offerings for extremely focused audiences, and given that NBCUniversal is not pulling its content from other platforms, SeeSo at this time appears to be merely a value-add to help the company wring additional value out of existing content. One thing's for sure: this looks nothing like the great dream of a la carte online television we were once hoping for.