NBC Ties Fall Schedule to Online Content

NBC Universal became the latest TV network to unveil extensive new broadband plans by introducing its “TV 360” digital components to complement its fall TV schedule.

“We all know the power of television to connect with viewers and have an impact like no other medium,” Jeff Zucker, CEO of NBC Universal Television Group, said in a statement. “Now, we’re seeing the power of the Web to capture those viewers, extend the television experience and build communities and a level of engagement like nothing else out there.”

Elements of NBC’s plans include a broadband comedy network, previews of TV episodes online, and standalone Web content from its prime time, late night, and daytime TV shows.

More shows in NBC’s fall lineup will be tied in with Web-based content, according to Zucker. New and returning prime time shows like “The Office,” “Law & Order: Criminal Intent,” “Heroes,” “Friday Night Lights,” and “30 Rock” will have companion Web-only content. NBC has also redesigned the Web pages for its late night lineup, adding more video features and Web-only content for “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno,” “Late Night with Conan O’Brien,” and “Saturday Night Live.”

NBC’s daytime drama “Passions” will have another series of Webisodes this season, to be joined by an online soap opera with existing “Passions” characters and new ones, which will air in two weekly five-minute episodes.

The broadband network, DotComedy.com, will launch this summer with content from NBC’s library, viral videos, and original Web-only content. NBC will also launch a FirstLook site for each of its TV networks, previewing a limited number of TV episodes from NBC, USA, Sci Fi and Bravo series online.

Similar moves have been made by other networks, most recently by CBS, which earlier this month launched “innertube,” an ad-supported broadband channel of original Web content, companion shows to CBS’ TV shows, and rebroadcasts of past TV fare.

NBC has also tied its sites together for advertisers by unifying the video content on its properties with a single Flash-based media player with embedded ads, making it easier for media buyers to place ads across its properties. The player has been put in place across all of NBC Universal’s sites, including NBC, its owned and operated TV stations, USA, SCI FI, Bravo, Access Hollywood and iVillage. CBS had consolidated video players across its sites last year, following the launch of its interactive division.

NBC has also detailed plans to integrate some of its properties more closely with those of the recently acquired iVillage. NBC’s “Today” will be linked with iVillage through a “Makeover Central” site and contest, and “Access Hollywood” will tie up with iVillage’s Astrology.com site for “Access Hollywood Celebrity Horoscopes.”

Broadband content has become the latest battleground for TV networks, with all of the major players trying out various models, including ad-supported, pay-per-view, and subscription offerings of recent TV content or companion shows to its TV shows. Besides leading the way on iTunes with paid downloads of shows like “Lost” and “Desperate Housewives,” ABC recently launched its “My ABC” ad-supported downloads.

Fox has explored made-for-mobile programming for its “Prison Break” series. Viacom debuted broadband channels last year for MTV and Comedy Central.

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