NBCU’s Comstock Talks Digital Strategy


[By Staci D. Kramer] Beth Comstock‘s appointment late last year as president of NBCU Digital Media and Market Development was a clear signal from NBCU Chairman and CEO Bob Wright that digital was a priority. Actions since then including the iVillage acquisition, the emphasis on digital as a 360 effort across the company and a slew of organizational moves backed that up. But digital is not her only responsibility; she also oversees market development, research and communications. Enter George Kliavkoff, who will join NBCU in September as chief digital officer — Comstock’s digital deputy, hired not to create a digital strategy but to refine and further what she already has in place heading an established team, as she explained in an interview late Tuesday. (He will not be responsible for iVillage; Debbie Fine has been hired as president of iVillage Properties and will report directly to Comstock.) “We hired him because we wanted him to grow the business and take us to the next level,” Comstock said. “We needed somebody like George who could both build some new businesses but keep the existing businesses on their growth trajectory.” Later she added, “Hopefully the underbrush has been cleared out and now it’s just kind of like go for it.”
But Kliavkoff will not be some kind of digital czar running all digital operations. Instead, he and his team will work across NBCU with the people responsible for each segment’s digital efforts, for instance, working with Jeff Gaspin, president, NBCU cable entertainment, digital content and cross-network strategy.
Comstock: “They need to extend their core properties in the digital media but from the company’s point of view we need someone who can wrap all that together, figure out how to take things that are broader than one business unit and make something bigger.” Both Comstock and Kliavkoff expect his experience dealing with 30 MLB clubs and the other constituencies in MLB to come in handy.
Comstock on some of the changes since she came on board: “One of the things that we have helped shape, that has developed in the past few months is this kind of 360 approach that starts right from the beginning with programming and the need to wrap our experiences around the consumer much more so you don’t just think of something as a TV experience or online. How do you extend different storylines, how do you extend different opportunities to different platforms? That is something that really has been taking hold in the past couple of months. We’ve also taken the effort to move our online offerings specifically from just promotional to more business focused so they have revenue targets, we’ve hired and grown a sales force and those are key steps for us.”
Her next steps: “Another part of my role has been to create a market development function, strategic relationships, partnerships, dealing much more directly with some of our clients, TV, film. That part of my job will kick into gear. Research — some of the pieces of the puzzle .. and digital’s going to be a critical component of that … Digital is a great entree to the discussion with marketing partners because it allows you to try different things .. it’s a great way to cement the relationships and that’s what we’re finding.”
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