Seeso, NBCUniversal’s oddly named subscription service aimed at cord cutters, is now live. The ad-free streaming service is solely focused on comedies, pulling together well-known titles and fan favorites, including Monty Python classics, “Parks and Recreation,” “The Office” (US and UK versions), “The IT Crowd,” “The Kids In The Hall,” and many others, plus next-day access to full episodes of “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon” and “Late Night with Seth Meyers” as well as over 40 years of “Saturday Night Live,” along with original programs and stand-up specials.
In total, there will be over 2,000 hours of original content provided at launch, with more being added every day, the company says.
Pricing for the service, which had previously been in private beta, is a fairly reasonable $3.99 per month.
Both online and on mobile, Seeso is easy to use – it offers simple navigation, a search engine, tools to build playlists and a favorites list, and its various sections help you quickly find its originals, exclusives (like Monty Python), top shows (like SNL), and genres (like standup).
Taking a cue from other efforts underway in the subscription video market, NBCUniversal isn’t only relying on its back catalog of content and current programs to make its new service appealing. The company is also investing in exclusive, original programming – just as streaming video giants Netflix, Amazon and Hulu now do.
Included in this lineup are originals like “The UCB Show,” from the hosts, creators and founders of “Upright Citizens Brigade,” including Matt Besser, Amy Poehler, Ian Roberts and Matt Walsh.
There are also shows like “Dave and Ethan: Lovemakers,” from Broadway Video’s Above Average Productions; “Sammy J & Randy in Ricketts Lane,” a musical comedy about mismatched housemates – one attorney and one puppet; “Before the Morning After,” which features comedians, drunk in a diner at 2 a.m. at The Edinburgh Fringe Festival; and there’s an animated sketch series called “The Cyanide & Happiness Show,” based on a popular web comic.
The first episodes of all five shows were made freely available during Seeso’s beta, which has now wrapped with today’s public launch. However, a subset of Seeso content will remain free indefinitely.
Starting today, new episodes will be added on a weekly basis – a release schedule that’s more like traditional television, rather than Netflix’s model of dumping entire seasons at once to encourage binge-watching. That decision could ultimately backfire on Seeso, as it doesn’t allow fans to fully immerse themselves in the original series. After all, getting addicted to a new show often takes a good handful of episodes.
Other originals are already planned for release later this year, including “HarmonQuest,” from Dan Harmon and his Comedian Companions; “Bajillion Dollar Propertie$,” a reality show spoof; a dark family comedy “Flowers,” starring Julian Barratt and Olivia Colman; a stand-up series “Take My Wife” from creators and hosts Cameron Esposito and Rhea Butcher; and others.
In addition to TV shows, original and otherwise, Seeso will also be the home to live stand-up comedy – a type of programming that has proved to be very popular on other streaming services, like Netflix, which has a large catalog of standup specials available at any given time.
Seeso, meanwhile, is experimenting with running live stand-up specials.
It delivered the first live over-the-top stand-up special during its beta when it ran “The Guest List: Live From The Barrel House” – which is now available in the Seeso library. And on January 13, it will go live again with another special. Planned specials include “Besser Breaks The Record,” an hour-long routine from Upright Citizens Brigade’s Matt Besser and “Rory Scovel: The Charleston Special,” another hour-long special from Rory Scovel.
The channel will also offer daily doses of stand-up comedy from comics around the U.S., it says.
Seeso’s model is similar to Hulu’s – that is, you don’t have to subscribe to watch some of its content. Instead, Seeso has a “free-forever front porch,” a company rep explains, meaning that a subset of content will remain free forever. You don’t have to put in a credit card to view the videos, just an email address.
The idea is to get people hooked on the programming and originals by offering them for free, then convert them to paying subscribers over time.
The question, however, for Seeso and other niche streaming services, is whether or not consumers today will go for these lower-cost additions to complement their preferred, and much larger streaming subscriptions, like those from Netflix, Amazon and Hulu. Without some hugely popular draw, like HBO has with “Game of Thrones,” which pulls in subscribers to its over-the-top effort HBO NOW, consumers may not see the need to subscribe to these sorts of niche services in large numbers.