'30 Rock' clip shows synergies aren't always the best solution

It might have seemed ridiculous that The New York Times recently published a piece about a six-second, blink-and-you'll-miss-it flashback on a TV sitcom.

It might have seemed ridiculous that The New York Times recently published a piece about a six-second, blink-and-you'll-miss-it flashback on a TV sitcom.

The Times-cited, six-second clip on NBC's 30 Rock featured a music video that Tracy Morgan's character made called "Werewolf Bar Mitzvah." Absurdist flashbacks have been a recent staple of comedic TV, but nowhere is it more deftly employed than on 30 Rock, the quasi-Saturday Night Live tribute written by former SNL head writer Tina Fey.

While the Times' story started out as an entertainment curio, it took an unexpected turn toward the end. Despite - or in spite of? - its nearly universally positive reviews, 30 Rock is not pulling in a healthy number of viewers.

Because everything on TV that's worthwhile makes it to YouTube eventually, those who missed the show could still hope to get their helping of the schlock video. But clicking on the YouTube images of Morgan embedded on a number of blogs returns a message: "This video is no longer available."

While the "no longer available" message is a constant bane to many YouTube devotees, the Times' explanation for this particular incident is telling. Last week was also the much-hyped launch of Hulu, a video site from NBC parent NBC Universal and partner News Corp., which would likely feature the NBC-owned clip. The Times speculated it was pulled for that reason.

YouTube is the primary online destination for video content, and it was, in fact, the networks' and content producers' inability to put up competition in YouTube's infancy that accelerated its ascendancy. While NBC, to its credit, eventually put the clip on its 30 Rock Web site, it had none of the usability of YouTube. Also, it did not appear to buy any Google AdWords for relevant search terms to call people's attention to it.

As brands diversify, there will be this tendency to synergize in a way that could produce big results, but is just as likely - if not more likely - to fail miserably. Hulu could be the Web's great new product and people might flock to NBC when they want short clips of their favorite shows. But when the real money (today) is to be made on broadcast advertising, it doesn't help much to deprive 30 Rock of additional promotion.

I recently discussed IAC - the Barry Diller-owned Internet conglomerate featuring assorted properties like Ask.com, Evite, and CollegeHumor.com - with an Internet entrepreneur. I asked him about the value of IAC's brand image, considering the fact that it seemingly just existed to own a number of disparate properties. More important than "brand image," the entrepreneur said IAC's value was that of enabling those properties to be able to share costs, like offices and HR, and the opportunity to collaborate.

So, I said, "Like CollegeHumor.com using Ask.com's search." "Yes," he responded, but wondered what they should do if Google offered a better deal. As organizations continue to diversify, they should keep that point in mind.

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