The Weekly UsabilityTube Review: NBC 24/7 Video

In this week’s UsabilityTube Review, we take a look, through parted fingers, at NBC 24/7 video.

The 24/7 stuff is one sub-brand of video content you’ll find on the twitchy, frantic and distracting home page. Since the whole site is available 24/7, of course, it’s hard to figure out what this brand name means. But let’s roll with it and scroll on through.

But first, let me compliment the designers of the NBC site. I have never before seen the use of what is clearly an abstraction of a toilet handle as a navigation device. Whether this metaphor was used consciously or not is immaterial.

And let me also say that the way the handle and related copy scoots around the screen as you mouse over it eerily recalls those joke e-mails from the late 90s where you’d be asked to “click here” and the radio button jumps away. Funny!

But back the serious task here of critiquing the 24/7 video, using the format established last week in this space.  Onward.  

The Sell

“We are the first network to marry gold-standard content with social networking. We’ve listened to our users through message boards and focus groups and are building them the playground they’ve asked for.”–Vivi Ziglar, Executive VP, NBC Digital Entertainment

Medium-Message Match  Downgrades for inane video fad-mongering; upgrades for content best conveyed by video rather than another medium.

The question here is whether the video being streamed is well-matched for Web distribution. Which is to say, is it entertaining to sit and watch this stuff avec mouse? The short answer is no. Of the eight clips presented yesterday on the 24/7 module, three are worth burning off a few minutes with: the clipettes of America’s Got Talent, the Singing Bee, and Last Comic Standing. If you like those shows, or are just lobotomy-bored, they deliver some fleeting satisfaction. The other five clips include two awkwardly self-promotional clips from something called Comi-Con (if you have to ask, don’t), plus three repurposed promos for fall shows. Each show does have a site of its own that is enhanced with 2.0fferings, and there are some promising developments–the promised “playground” is under development, and some kids have begun to colonize it. Heroes at this point is the best built-out. It has a wiki that’s a pretty good example of UGC, and it seems like the show’s fans are enjoying it. It also offers fan art, live blogs, character profiles and other thingbats well matched to the show’s spawn-of-Trekkies cult following. Elsewhere, “Ask the Hoff” is a competent “bonus original content” for America’s Got Talent. On the other hand, across the sites user comments rarely threaten to break the Twitter IQ barrier , and user submitted videos are indistinguishable from YouTube’s. In fact, I’m guessing you can find most of them on YouTube.  Score: 2.5 out of 5 rabbit ears

Respect for users’ time and attention Upgrades for tight editing; downgrades for excessive length and production incontinence.  

The lead video currently on display is a 12:25 [note: Stairway to Heaven is 8:02] segment in which a graceless writer/producer of the show Heroes hogs the podium to do an Emmy-style stemwinder, pimp the show and, somewhere along the way, introduce the actors who do a high-dork press conference. Most of the other edits are fairly efficient, with one head-thumping exception. New rule: When you produce something called a Two Minute Replay, it can’t be 3:19. Score: 2 out of 5 rabbit ears

Commercial Time-Suck Upgrades for space- and time-efficient ad presentation; downgrades for tedious, excessive commercials that cannot be avoided.

The first video you play in the 24/7 module is preceded by a :30 movie ad. That ad also pops up on some schedule or trigger I couldn’t figure out. While the rest of the site is chaosified with non-video ads for third parties and NBC content, the videos themselves are not for the most part detained behind commercial barriers. For a TV network site, this is admirable. Score: 3.5 out of 5 rabbit ears 

Innovation Upgrades for inventive use of the video medium; downgrades for pack-trailing production habits. 

Not a hint of summer freshness in the 24/7 module. All the videos are either interviews, still-cam podium shots, show clips or outright commercials. On the program sites, there is some good innovation in the user community areas, but it’s early. Score: 2 out of 5 rabbit ears

Bottom line: By focussing on the 24/7 content, ‘ve looked at the site in a narrow way, looking at just one entry point in a network portal. Clearly the portal’s broader strategy is to push fans and curiosity-seekers to the NBC show sites. The Web programming and 2.0 experimentation is more ambitious there, if still a work in progress. 

Essentially the network is just beginning to move its Web strategy past the promote-the-shows-with-clips-and-outtakes stage (which can be carbon-dated to spring 2002). The addition of social networking features resets the calendar to fall 2006. 

When will the network will ring in 2007? Stay tuned!  

Net score for NBC 24/7:  2.5 out of 5 rabbit ears

Explore posts in the same categories: NBC, UsabilityTube Reviews, video

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