NBC moving to boost mobility
EmptyMobile might be a small piece of the digital pie at NBC Universal, but it's a growing one in which new distribution platform Hulu and the company's own wireless spectrum could play a part.
That's the word from chief digital officer George Kliavkoff, who gave the keynote interview Monday at Billboard Mobile Entertainment Live, a Nielsen Co.-sponsored event held at the Las Vegas Hilton in advance of this week's CTIA Wireless confab.
While Kliavkoff did not divulge what portion of NBC Uni's digital business — which he estimated could reach $1 billion in revenue this year — will be represented by mobile content, he expressed optimism for its future.
"Mobile is not a large chunk of the business, but it's a piece we're proud of, a piece that's growing quickly," he said.
Perhaps NBC Uni's biggest content asset — the Beijing Olympics in August — definitely will be a centerpiece of the conglomerate's mobile strategy this year. Kliavkoff disclosed that the company will switch over both of its MediaFlo channels entirely to coverage from Beijing. The biggest U.S. carriers, AT&T and Verizon, will be able to offer 24/7 mobile feeds in addition to highlight clips that will be available on carrier decks.
As for Hulu, NBC Uni's online joint venture with News Corp., Kliavkoff stopped short of confirming its migration to wireless but affirmed his interest in operating out of the Hulu playbook at the very least.
"The concept of putting multiple content providers together to create a great destination with a really consumer-friendly interface to distribute premium mobile content is something we're very interested in," he said. "We're not ready to talk about whether it will be under the Hulu brand or not. It would be just speculation at this point."
Kliavkoff also talked up the health of Hulu just weeks into its commercial launch, noting that the platform already has sold out of advertising.
In addition, Kliavkoff said that an internal study the company conducted regarding entering the 700 MHz wireless spectrum auction resulted not in a bid but rather the conclusion that the spectrum the company already owned for its TV stations could be used for a new wireless service in partnership with carriers.
He noted that 25%-30% of NBC Uni's spectrum for its stations remains unused, while the available spectrum at NBC Uni asset Telemundo runs as high as 65%, which could make a Spanish-language wireless service a strong possibility.
"Certainly wireless offerings is something we're considering," said Kliavkoff, who declined to elaborate on plans.
What he did announce officially were new deals between NBC Uni and carriers AT&T, Verizon and Research in Motion to seed the conglomerate's 60 WAP sites on its decks, which is key placement for content consumption. NBC Uni already had a deal in place with Alltel Wireless.
Kliavkoff took pains to put NBC Uni's relationship with carriers in a positive light after a day of panels in which tensions between the two parties was a recurrent theme. The issue came to a boil on a panel earlier in the day that brought together Larry Shapiro, executive vp business development and operations at Walt Disney Internet Group, and Peter Lurie, general counsel of Virgin Mobile USA.
Both openly vented on the disconnect between the businesses. Shapiro took carriers to task, advising them to "not act so draconian in setting up the gates," whether price, discoverability or usability gates.
But Lurie shot back that content companies were out of touch with the mobile market. "There's a real disjunction between what content companies want to do and what the consumers really want," he said.
CTIA is expected to yield a slew of content-related mobile announcements from Hollywood. Sony Pictures Television said Monday that Verizon Wireless' V Cast service will join a roster of distributors of its new multiplatform comedy channel C-Spot, a suite of six shortform series.
Among the series is "The Writers Room," from creative marketing agency Stun Creative. The scripted comedy offers a behind-the-scenes glimpse of a fictional late-night talk show hosted by Kevin Pollak, who portrays an egomaniacal version of himself.
Additional distributors of C-Spot include YouTube, AOL Video, Hulu, Crackle.com and Sony Bravia.
Gail Schiller in New York contributed to this report.