Starting Monday, November 7, the executives behind the NBC Nightly News want you to feel free to change the channel. Not to a competing newscast, mind you, but to their own newscast online at MSNBC.com.
This offering will make NBC the first network to provide an entire newscast online. It will available 10 p.m. EST on the day of the broadcast.
To long-time Web viewers, this news might sound, well, not particularly newsworthy. But in the tradition-bound world of major television network executives, it’s a bold step.
“All the news organizations are facing the fact that their audiences are on the older side, and online video viewers are much younger crowd,” says Mike Shields, senior reporter for MediaWeek. “This year, the major media companies are experimenting with broadband plays.”
The NBC move is the latest – and biggest – in a series of efforts in the media to test the notion of putting television content online.
Last month, Apple began offering select ABC shows for paid download through its iTunes Music Store. Before that, CNN opened up what had previously been for-pay video snippets of its programming.
Other networks, notably, Comedy Central and MTV (both owned by Viacom), have been forthcoming with their shows, offering almost the entire content of popular programs for online viewing, such as The Daily Show and The Colbert Report, as well as music videos.
Behind these various moves are two key realizations by media executives. The first one is that, with technological advances such as TiVo and the always-on Internet, consumers’ interest in and need to adhere to a predetermined content schedule is waning.
“The shock to the system was TiVo,” says Charlie Tillinghast, president of MSNBC.com. “Once that was digested, then the idea of time-shifting content wasn’t that radical a notion. Part of the thinking is that programs aren’t just TV programs; they can go on any digital medium.”