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The Untapped Asset Streamers Should Be Using Today

Day-old talk shows are yesterday's news, so why not embrace a new window?
  • Trevor Noah in a screenshot from The Daily Show's "Between the Scenes." (Photo: Comedy Central)
    Trevor Noah in a screenshot from The Daily Show's "Between the Scenes." (Photo: Comedy Central)

    In the early 2000s, back when it was still the highest trafficked site on the internet, my then-employer Yahoo launched a subscription video service. It would be another four years before Netflix would begin dipping its toes in streaming, and a full decade before House of Cards and Orange Is the New Black. In other words, it was still the dark ages.

    The only subscription video service of note at the time was operated by RealNetworks, which charged subscribers $9.95 a month for access to NBA games and live feeds from the Big Brother house. By 2003, Real had 1.5 million paying subscribers, and Yahoo wanted a piece of that action.

    Although Yahoo's attempts to get users to pay for video mostly fell flat, one early discovery that did bear some fruit came when potential subscribers were asked what would make them most likely to pay for a streaming TV service. Second only to live sports (and ahead of actual TV shows), viewers responded most positively to a category called "backstage pass," which promised exclusive behind-the-scenes access to existing shows.

    Obviously much has changed in the intervening two decades, with streaming platforms supplanting terrestrial TV as they've built their brands around original and library content. Even sports — a last bastion for traditional TV — has begun migrating away from TV to streaming.

    But with the exception of those live Big Brother feeds (now a summer staple at Paramount+), the promise of that "backstage pass" that viewers clamored for twenty years ago remains largely untapped — at least on the major streaming platforms.

    There are some seeds of it on YouTube, where never-aired content intermingles freely with other TV show clips. Saturday Night Live regularly posts "cut for time" sketches and behind-the-scenes featurettes looking at the show's production, while shows like Andy Cohen's Watch What Happens Live produce online-only after shows.

    Perhaps the best (and purest) example of "backstage pass" type content available today can be found on The Daily Show with Trevor Noah's YouTube channel, where the show frequently posts "Between The Scenes" vignettes of Noah interacting with his audience and crew during commercial breaks.

    Unlike the The Daily Show itself, these clips aren't tightly produced (they're not produced at all); that's their appeal.

    Which brings me to my pitch: What if Paramount+ live-streamed The Daily Show with Trevor Noah as it taped, complete with retakes, raw footage from commercial breaks, and extended interviews? Obviously The Daily Show's Between The Scenes YouTube clips are curated, and as anyone who's sat in the studio audience of a show knows, most commercial breaks are not a laugh riot. But there's an intimacy and an excitement that comes with watching a show tape live, warts and all. Oddly enough, it's a premium experience.

    Like live Big Brother feeds, part of the deal with an offering like this would be that live-streamed shows would not be archived. Viewers not able to watch live would need to watch the edited version that night, or on-demand the next day. Some might even watch twice, just to see how the show edited a segment that went off the rails. And as anyone who's ever visited a Big Brother Live Feeds forum knows, nothing bonds a community of fans quite like having shared early access.

    Trevor Noah is just an example. The Late Show with Stephen Colbert recently posted an un-aired commercial break performance from James Taylor. How cool would it be to watch that live? In an era of waning relevance for talk shows, here's a way to create a new window for a show beyond its network airing and its VOD afterlife. Oh, and for the David Zaslavs out there? It's cheap.

    Jed Rosenzweig is the Founder and Publisher of Primetimer. 

    TOPICS: The Daily Show with Trevor Noah, Hulu, Paramount+, Peacock, The Late Show with Stephen Colbert