NBC executives are not kidding about their new Internet plans. But they are joking. The network is taking its comedy product online with a new Web site coined NBCx that is scheduled to launch during fourth quarter of 2000 and aimed at a young adult demo.
NBCx (www.nbcx.com) will feature old NBC comedy sketches from shows, including Saturday Night Live, videostreamed to Internet habitués. Former Harpo Productions President and ex-Oprah Producer Debbie DiMaio has been named president of NBCx and is staffing the new division at the network's Burbank headquarters.
As it is, NBCx will have access to all SNL sketches more than two minutes long, going back through the show's 25-year history. It will also feature a mix of streaming video from SNL, The Tonight Show With Jay Leno and Late Night With Conan O'Brien.
NBCx won't offer Leno or O'Brien monologues right now, but other parts of those shows will find a place. And, for now, NBC isn't planning on putting NBC comedy series like Will & Grace on NBCx, but that could change too.
Will affiliates cry foul? Alan Frank, president of Post Newsweek Stations and chairman of the NBC affiliate board, said he wasn't familiar with the NBCx plan. "We've been dealing with a number of these things," he said. But generally, affiliates object to the network's repurposing its material to other mediums. "It depends on the circumstances.'"
The site also will be home to dozens of original Internet comedies and sketch shows-something DiMaio says can make NBCx a secret weapon for the network's programming department.
"We're going to make this an incubator for new talent," DiMaio says. "And this place will really be a success when we take something off of the Internet and drive it back onto the network in the form of a TV show."
NBC executives say that the new site will be heavily integrated into NBCi, the network's Internet portal, and NBCx will be well supported by on-air television advertising on NBC and cable channels CNBC and MSNBC. DiMaio says she is talking with late-night show executives and talent about producing original programming for the site.
"We're really just getting off the ground right now, and things are changing every day," she says. "The reason we are sticking to late-night shows right now is that's where the Generation Y audience is and that's where NBC is really strong with Internet users compared to other networks."