News / TV

Seeso layoffs by NBCUniversal leave its original programming, entire future in doubt

Can Emmy nominations save Seeso?

For the sake of the programming department, decimated by layoffs from parent company NBCUniversal that will leave most of them unemployed a week from now, let’s hope so.

Then again, every once in a while, the Emmy Awards make it awkward by presenting trophies to already-canceled series. Just ask the Emmy-winning writers for The Ben Stiller Show. They made out OK, eventually, though.

Evan Shapiro, the former head of IFC who led that cable network’s initiative into critically-acclaimed sitcoms and sketch comedy series, and been the founding head of Seeso when it launched in January 2016. Shapiro left in early May 2017, which left many wondering about the long-term future of the streaming platform.

Conceived as a comedy-only alternative to Netflix or Hulu, priced cheaper at $3.99 a month, Seeso has offered a mix of existing NBC content from new episodes to complete archives, plus all-time comedy fan favorites such as the original UK version of The Office, Monty Python, and The Kids in the Hall. Over the past year and a half, Seeso also invested heavily in original programming, and even went head-to-head with Netflix over the fall and winter with its own “stand-up streaming fest,” releasing a new stand-up special every week from October 2016 through January 2017.

The list of original Seeso programs has included:

They certainly rounded up many comedians who have been popular among the alt/indie crowd or the so-called comedy nerds.

But, so too, did Super Deluxe, a Turner-owned digital property of a decade ago. Turner lost interest in Super Deluxe in about the same time frame as NBCUniversal seems to be impatient about Seeso. Super Deluxe recently resurfaced online as a revamped site for surreal videos.

Seeso still has new projects already in the pipeline and coming out this summer or later this year. Among them, a new Doug Stanhope stand-up special, a hybrid retro sitcom behind the scenes of The Tonight Show called There’s…Johnny!, another season of HarmonQuest, and Flula Borg’s new series, Flulanthropy.

I’ve known and enjoyed both the series Seeso makes as well as the people making them. Although I’ve yet to really hear much love for Seeso from anyone other than the people directly involved in those series. The platform keeps its numbers close to the vest, but estimates previously have placed their subscriber base in the low six-digits. How many stick around past the free trial month to keep paying $3.99/month, though? I guess that’s ultimately the multi-million dollar question NBCUniversal is trying to answer this summer.

Perhaps an Emmy nomination or two or more can prove Seeso’s worth.┬áNot that that’s a guarantee of anything in show business.


Sean L. McCarthy

Editor and publisher since 2007, when he was named New York's Funniest Reporter. Former newspaper reporter at the New York Daily News, Boston Herald and smaller dailies and community papers across America. Loves comedy so much he founded this site.

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