Lauren Zalaznick: How Hulu Will Evolve to Compete With Netflix

11:20 AM PST 03/03/2011 by Marisa Guthrie
Derick E. Hingle/Bloomberg/Getty Images

The NBCUni exec says, "It's something we've all been working on."

NEW YORK – There is a dearth of cable content on Hulu. But that's not Hulu's fault.

"Hulu is not the issue," says Lauren Zalaznick, Chairman, NBC Universal Entertainment & Digital Networks & Integrated Media.

The web streaming service is a joint venture between NBCUniversal, Fox and ABC. But Comcast gave up its management rights to Hulu as a government-imposed condition of the Comcast-NBCUni merger.

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Speaking at paidContent's annual conference, Zalaznick added, "nobody blocks things from Hulu. It all goes back to the agreements that the content producers made with MSOs. Those deals are very long and they're really encumbered with provisions that don't allow for [digital distribution]. There's no forward thinking language at all."

It's an issue the industry has been wrestling with as streaming services including Netflix have gained market share as they aggressively pursue content deals.

"One of the most important questions is what do you do with precious content that was once valued in X way and is now valued in Y way," said Zalaznick. "But it's something we've all been working on."

And despite what it may look like, attitudes about streaming content have evolved. As an example, Zalaznick offered Bravo's online preview seven years ago of the first episode of Queer Eye for the Straight Girl – a spinoff of the net's first hit show, Queer Eye for the Straight Guy.

"It was outrageous. It was like we put a man on the moon. The floodgates were opening even then."

Zalaznick's post-merger portfolio comes with a mandate to guide assets through the roiling digital waters. To that end, she stressed the synergistic opportunities among the newly merged NBCUni-Comcast.

"There are just more ways to activate a common goal," she said.

Of Zalaznick's new digital portfolio, which includes the movie-ticket site Fandango and female-targeted lifestyle site Daily Candy, the latter would seem to offer copious cross-pollination opportunities with NBCUni's iVillage.

Zalaznick defended iVillage's $600 million purchase price in 2006, which former NBCUni chief Jeff Zucker admitted was too steep.

"I think that part of the issues is the way the market comes and goes. Today, there's several big transactions that have come together relatively recently," she said referring to Newsweek-Daily Beast and AOL-Huffington Post mergers. (Read more about AOL-Huffington Post merger in the new issue of The Hollywood Reporter)
 
"They're all in the media space. I think the value [of iVillage] is a forward-looking value. In my view there's no doubt that this will be an excellent value in this company that will drive growth across assets."

To that end, iVillage is beefing up its mobile and social integration with today's launch of the iVillage App Network, which will push an array of mobile apps designed to super-serve the site's female users. The announcement comes on the heels of the newly launched Red Carpet Fever app. A signature iVillage app will launch later this month with additional apps – including My Pregnancy and Newborn Milestones – to follow. Zalaznick said the target is two app launches per quarter.

Additionally, Douglas Gottlieb has joined iVillage as president, user experience. Gottlieb, who was vp of digital products at Barnes & Noble's BN.com, will be charged with spearheading iVillage's mobile strategy.

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