NBC has plans to launch a premium, comedy-focused video subscription service. A new report from The Wall Street Journal says the video offering would bundle new episodes of the network's comedy staples Saturday Night Live and The Tonight Show. Both shows are already free to watch over the air for TV owners with an antenna, but NBC also wants to invest in original shows for the service and produce exclusive snippets as a showcase for its biggest stars like Jimmy Fallon, Seth Meyers, and actors across NBC's roster of current shows. Pricing could be as low as $2.50 to $3.50 per month, making this — like Netflix and Hulu Plus — a viable add-on for Sling TV customers. A launch could come later this year. The new service would be entirely separate from Hulu, which NBC partly owns, and the network's TV Everywhere apps.
NBC's not known for comedies these days
Aside from SNL, its late night shows, and the departing Parks and Recreation, NBC's programming lineup isn't terribly strong on comedies these days. In that sense, it's a weird time for NBC to be exploring this genre-specific possibility. But the network is willing to fund original content including "scripted, unscripted and sketch material" per the Journal.
If NBC moves forward, this could also dramatically alter the YouTube strategy for Jimmy Fallon's Tonight Show and other peacock shows. Clips of Fallon and his guests are routinely shared on the video site the very next day, but NBC's new service could receive a brief window of exclusivity before that and other content hits YouTube. As the Journal notes, NBC and Google have butted heads in trying to reach a revenue-sharing agreement and The Tonight Show's millions of views aren't yet being monetized efficiently.
NBC has explored similar standalone video services for different genres, but comedy has made it further along than any of those other ideas, the Journal's sources say. NBC network rival CBS has made bigger strides in reaching cord cutters and younger viewers; last year, it launched CBS All Access, which streams live shows and offers an on-demand back catalog of classic CBS programming. The Verge has reached out to NBC for comment.