Beth Comstock, NBC Universal, and GE

Posted by: Jon Fine on September 5, 2007

My colleague Diane Brady just wrote an excellent blog post about the New York Post report that has NBC digital honcho Beth Comstock heading back to GE headquarters. In it she picks apart GE’s relationship with NBC Universal in a rather interesting way, and comes up with this conclusion regarding Comstock’s future:

Comstock still carries the aura of being an outsider to some folks in the industry and she has yet to pull off the kind of home-run success expected of a rising star within GE. But her overall track record is strong and she remains a favorite of Immelt. Her future looks assured. The real question is what happens to NBCU.

You should read the whole thing. My one quibble—a tiny one—is with her characterization that

NBCU has been a leader in gaining an audience for its content on the Web (and not just because of Justin Timberlake’s ‘D**k in a Box’ video).

I’ve thought (and I’ve written) the big network with the best digital strategy—I know, I know, an honor akin to being the tallest short person—has been CBS. (Even if all this Kid Nation stuff has pushed this notion out of the press.) Before that, though, I wrote a fairly laudatory column concerning NBC and News Corp.’s announcement of its video portal, the site formerly known as NewCo and now known as hulu.com. One should always—how to put this?—wait till a product is launched before trashing it, but I’m less of a believer in hulu.com now than I was then. (I’m not sure a video portal partnership between entities work unless practically everyone’s content is there. And I’m not sure multiple entities can do a good enough group hug to make the day-to-day operations of a cross-company venture work.)

In my own interactions with Beth I was struck, as everyone is, by how assured and sharp she is. But I never came away thinking that she had any particular profound thoughts about the ongoing collision between traditional media entities and a rapidly-digitizing world. The company trotted Beth out, a lot, at conferences and public events. (If I recall correctly, our paths intersected at two such events within the span of around 5 days last year.) All the same, I had the sense that George Kliavkoff, who NBCU named its chief digital officer in August of last year, did more of the heavy lifting when it came to the nuts and bolts of digital strategy.

(Assuming there’s heavy lifting involved with nuts and bolts, that is. Apologies for grievously mixing metaphors.)

In any event: read Diane’s piece.

Reader Comments

Don

September 6, 2007 11:14 AM

What is needed is the inclusion of all historic networ-owned content not sold via DVD or another commercial mechanism. If Hulu.com putout every single news segment that Huntley/Brinkley did or every SNL segment not on DVD (not the "best of" but every segment) or every segment from every episode of the Today Show or every NBC News Special or Dateline segment or literally, every piece of video that NBC owns then that would be something. I am aware that the studios own most historic entertainment programming, which is why I brought up the news material, but seriously, the sheer size of something to compete with Rick Prellinger's www.archive.org would be an eye-opener even if people watched more **** in the box videos than LBJ interviews, the change in our culture would make it the "tiffany" online network. Knowing the economics of hiring interns for free to do some of this work in third party locations like Vanderbilt's news archive, it's a no-brainer to me. Sometimes it's not quality but quantity. Is Hulu listening?

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