When it comes to the major networks, NBC seems to be a slacker in cyberspace.

Disney's (NYSE:DIS) ABC raised the stakes of digital delivery last year, when it began streaming hit shows like Lost and Desperate Housewives for free through its website. Fox's parent company just happens to own MySpace, the world's most popular social network. CBS (NYSE:CBS) may not pocket as many interactive websites as it did before it was spun off by Viacom (NYSE:VIA), but it still watches over the popular sports hub CBSSports.com -- formerly Sportsline -- and has been a pioneer in screening pilots and developing shows through its Innertube service.

So what about NBC? General Electric's (NYSE:GE) majority-owned network hasn't been much of a player on the Web. Sure, it teamed up with Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) to form MSNBC -- and the popular MSNBC.com news website -- but what about NBC itself?

Well, the peacock's been proudly displaying its feathers on the Web early in this fall primetime season. You just need to know where to look.

If you've been catching any of the shows on NBC over the past two weeks, you've probably noticed how the network is inviting viewers to chat with stars, writers, and creators of some of its primetime shows. The invitations -- shortly before the end credits roll -- are inviting, though one begins to wonder if NBC is taking a big risk here.

Do you really want to head over to NBC.com to chat with 30 Rock's Tina Fey just as The Office is about to come on? That's not the point, though. NBC isn't trying to shoo away audiences to the distractive Web. The point is that they associate the show with NBC.com.

That's what she said
That's important, because once they arrive at the site, they'll find a 30 Rock page populated with videos of Fey answering viewer questions, as well as in-character blogs and videos from some of the show's cast members.

And if you think that's sticky, just check out what NBC is doing with The Office. Last week's episode invited viewers to apply for jobs at new branches opening up for the show's fictional paper supply company. Dunder-Mifflin Infinity will gladly take your application -- to a social networking site.

Applicants get profile pages after applying to one of several regional branches. They can flesh out their profiles by singling out their favorite Office cast members, episodes, and quotes. Registered site users also get free virtual bucks that they can use to accessorize their virtual desks. Does anyone really have a rubber duck, a Newton cradle, or a Dunder-Mifflin toy truck on their desk in the real world? Well, they can in NBC's new site.

There isn't a lot of member interaction at the moment. Participants are given tasks (like designing the DMI logo or dolling up one of the cast members) that will be judged by regional managers.

This is obviously just the beginning.

"Picture a community site for The Office where registered guests can hang out in a virtual Dunder-Mifflin," I wrote nine months ago. "They can share their workplace horror stories or their views on inter-office romance, but there's more to it than that. Personality quizzes that help you discover the cast member that you resemble the most? Sure, and don't forget the related avatar that visitors will be able to use as a signature file elsewhere. A weekly game casts you as a Dunder-Mifflin intern with a specific task to complete? Of course."

I nailed the show's online strategy with the first and last part of that suggestion, but the DMI potential will eclipse everything that I wrote in the middle.

Networks have more power than we think. They provide branded entertainment consumed by tens of millions of fans on a weekly basis. Why shouldn't they be the masters of attracting like-minded couch potatoes online?

Heard it on the Newsvine
NBC has also been aggressive when it comes to digital distribution. The company made headlines last month when it left Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) -- where it accounted for 30% of the television shows sold through Apple's iTunes store -- for Amazon.com's (NASDAQ:AMZN) nascent Unbox service.

It has gone on to announce plans for NBC Direct, a self-administered offering that will provide downloads with a limited shelf life for free through its own ad-supported model. This comes just as NBC is teaming up with Fox to launch video-streaming website Hulu.

Oh, and now we have MSNBC -- the joint venture with Mr. Softy -- agreeing to acquire Newsvine over the weekend. Newsvine is a website that cashes in on the Web 2.0 magic of citizen journalism, getting users to report and editorialize over breaking news. It's a hot trend, and one that many print publications are using to try to jump-start their namesake websites.

Acquiring the grassroots-powered website may not be a direct win for NBC. MSNBC.com is run at a distance from NBC.com. However, it's telling that this is the first acquisition of MSNBC.com's 11-year history.

The winds of change are blowing refreshingly on all things NBC-related. It's about time!  

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Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz is a fan of grassroots journalism, with or without a lawnmower. Rick is also part of the Rule Breakers newsletter research team, seeking out tomorrow's ultimate growth stocks a day early. He does own shares in Disney. The Fool's disclosure policy just completed a 5K fun run for rabies awareness.