Peter Kafka

Recent Posts by Peter Kafka

Why NBC Can’t Make Money From Its Latest “Saturday Night Live” Viral Video

“Saturday Night Live” used to worry that people would watch the sketch show on the Web. Now it embraces the idea.

The show even hired a social media agency to push links and embed codes out early Sunday morning after a new episode airs, so it will get maximum exposure.

But you can be as Web-savvy as you want and still bump into stubborn copyright laws. Which is what appeared to happen this weekend with a sketch that starred Brunos Mars as a Pandora intern.

As far as NBC.com is concerned, the sketch never happened, which means you can’t see it on the network’s site, or on Hulu, either as a clip or as part of the entire episode’s playback.

The very, very obvious culprit here are music licenses, which are almost always the culprit behind missing SNL sketches: In the course of seven minutes, Mars belts out pieces of songs from Katy Perry, Green Day, Aerosmith and Michael Jackson. And if the show doesn’t have the digital rights to a single piece of a single song, the whole thing goes black on the Web, legally speaking.

Still, it’s a sketch about a big, well-known tech brand, and those things always do well on the Internet. So you can still see it all over the Web — including our site — but none of the benefit accrues to NBC or its affiliated sites.

Instead, the winner here is something called GossipCop, which turns out to be part of the Dan “Mediaite” Abrams stable, all of which are very happy to take stuff that runs on TV and replay it over the Web.

But even that is a step forward for NBC, which must surely be aware that Abrams is making money off its clip, but isn’t grousing loudly enough to make him take it down. So, until/unless he does:


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I think the NSA has a job to do and we need the NSA. But as (physicist) Robert Oppenheimer said, “When you see something that is technically sweet, you go ahead and do it and argue about what to do about it only after you’ve had your technical success. That is the way it was with the atomic bomb.”

— Phil Zimmerman, PGP inventor and Silent Circle co-founder, in an interview with Om Malik