NBC Universal Redefining What a Television Station Is
Last week I attended a big Internet conference and heard George Kliavkoff, Chief Digital Officer of NBC Universal, talking about what that company is doing online. I came away amazingly impressed by two things, both of which point to a redefinition of the role of television broadcasters.
Let’s start with Hulu.com. If you haven’t heard of it before, the site is a joint venture between Fox and NBC, which has provided a way for consumers to watch full-length episodes of essentially all of the TV series produced by these two mega-networks. The sheer magnitude of this effort in terms of content seems dwarfed in my view by the intelligence with which they approached the user experience. First, there are very few ads during any half-hour show. I’m not sure exactly how many, but I seem to recall it was something like two 30-second ad or four 15-second ads in an hour. That’s arguably a much better experience than watching on traditional television. Not only that, you can cut/paste sections of each show and e-mail your friends, or put them on your Web site or Facebook page. All of this suggests a big-media company that really “gets it.” And, so far, the reaction to Hulu.com has been nearly universally positive for good reason.
This is just one example of a trend I’ve been writing about for a while now. Television and the Internet are quickly becoming the same thing. And watching television on your computer is not even the most important part of the strategy. Kliavkoff suggested that the mobile phone was the company’s real target. "We deliver content to screens, and that’s the screen that’s always with you."
The second thing of note was his discussion about the upcoming Olympics. Last time the Olympics took place, it seemed obvious to me that eventually we would be able to watch any part of the Olympics LIVE, when we wanted to. It always infuriated me that I had to watch what the networks decided I should watch, when they decided I should watch it.
Well, check out these stats. NBC will offer 2,200 hours of LIVE Olympic programming on “all digital platforms” including cell phones and mobile devices. In addition, it will archive and offer 3,600 hours of “on demand” (i.e., recorded) content. According to Kliavkoff this will be the “biggest digital online event in history.” Sure seems so to me, and I think it will forever change our view of what it is to watch and become engaged with the Olympics.
NBC seems to be leading the way in taking the best of broadcast television and transforming it for this new video Internet age we’re living in. Impressive.