I saw this last night when I left work and it was still there when I came in to work this morning.
I was watching the episode of NBC’s The Office when I had something of a revelation. I realized that the storyline was foreshadowing the possibility of some conflict regarding the Dunder Mifflin “Infinity” website. This is good material for the show, but I couldn’t help but notice the editorialization of the commentary vis-a-vis NBC’s recent reluctance to acclimate its business model to new technologies like digital video recorders (e.g. TiVo) and Apple’s iTunes Music Store.
The past year has seen NBC depart from participation in licensing its content to Apple after insisting Apple raise the price of downloading an episode of its programming from $1.99 to $4.99, most likely in an effort to extract itself from the agreement.
NBC has also made an effort to frustrate TiVo users by lengthening their episodes, thus “super-sizing” the episode so that it begins and finishes airing outside the scope of its time slot.
Now comes news that NBC is moving away from the business model of using commercial breaks to separate the advertising from the content. They plan instead to integrate the product advertisements into the programming itself.
NBC has also collaborated with Fox to create Hulu, an authorized content destination complete with interstitial advertising. Think youtube meets video.msn.com. It does not supply user content – rather it streams authorized broadcast content with embedded advertisements.
And in addition to all of this, it seems that NBC wants to incorporate the web into its satirization routine.
The premise of the satire is that the company employing the sales force in “The Office,” Dunder Mifflin, Inc., in its own effort to stay relevant in a world decreasingly reliant on paper, has launched an commerce site to sell paper online. The employees are asked to come in on a Saturday to place orders of sales they had made personally on the website, because the website had gone off line the previous month and the CFO, its creator, wished to inflate its sales statistics.
The reason the site had gone off line, we learn, was because to the websites’ social-networking functionality became infiltrated with sexual predators, a la Chris Matthews’ “Dateline” series, “To Catch a Predator.”
The whole theme of the show seemed to poke fun at NBC’s rival in a surreal depiction of the network’s own struggles with the internet as a medium for communication.