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NBCU’s Chief Digital Officer George Kliavkoff Leaving; Internal Memo

imageIt is a bloody Monday in big media/Internet land, as layoffs, reorgs and senior exec moves continue: George Kliavkoff, the Chief Digital Officer at NBC Universal (NYSE: GE) and main brain behind conceiving and developing Hulu, is leaving the company. He will be there till the end of this year, and will then move on. The news was first reported by Kliavkoff opted out of the final year of his NBCU contract, allowing him to discuss other jobs with possible employers.

Full memo after the jump

In a memo to employees, he wrote: “I believe in my heart that this is a best time to start, run, or invest in digital companies and I am very excited about moving on to my next challenge.” Which probably means startups or investment world, but we’re speculating otherwise: would an MSFT job be in the offing? MSN desperately needs someone to run it, for sure. And of course Kliavkoff has deep Seattle connections, having been at *RealNetworks* before. He joined NBC as its first chief digital officer in 2006, and prior to that spent nearly three years at MLBAM, the digital arm of MLB (commuting to New York from Seattle).

Staci adds: The chief digital officer title will leave with Kliavkoff, who joined with the title when he was hired by Beth Comstock in 2006. A digital group will remain as part of the Strategy & Development group operated under Salil Mehta, president of business operations, strategy and development, but the focus will be more on possible acquisitions and the like through the Peacock Equity Fund. (I’m told that Kliavkoff will remain on the boards of Peacock and Hulu until he leaves; no word yet on who might succeed him there.) NBCU head Jeff Zucker’s statement tonight says as much about the company’s strategy as it does Kliavkoff: “George came to NBC Universal when we were nowhere in digital. We asked him to help us change the fundamental orientation of a traditional media company from an analog to a digital mindset. George did that, and did an outstanding job for us. Today, our digital properties are thriving across the company, and are now embedded in each of our divisions.” Even when he was hired, Comstock made it clear she wasn’t trying to bring in a digital czar, but someone to work across the company with the people responsible for digital in each division.

I just got off the phone with Kliavkoff, who stressed that he has not had any job conversations: “I’ve not spoken to anyone about any other job because I was prohibited from doing that under my contract with NBC. I look forward to having those conversations when the time is appropriate.” He wants to stay in the digital space in a role that moves the industry forward. What might that be? He listed three possible areas: “Some sort of investing. Some sort of digital startup. Some kind of digital startup within a traditional company.” NBCU execs were very unhappy with me when I suggested Comstock’s departure and Mehta’s arrival could lead to his leaving, making it very clear that Kliavkoff would be staying. So why leave now? “The fact that at NBC a lot of the business units have reached scale in their digital operations is a sign of success … it’s exactly why I chose this moment to leave.” He thought it would be a 3-5 year task but “it happened quicker than I thought.”

Subject: Thank you!

“I came to NBCU more than two years ago with the mission of managing and accelerating the digital transition across the company. I always said that if I did my job well, there would be no need for a centralized digital function at NBCU in 3-5 years because the digital businesses within each business unit would be at scale. While I

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