Panel: Digital future wide open


NBC is mulling broadcasting Friday night rehearsal sessions of "Saturday Night Live" on the Internet.

It's just one of the many scenarios the digital future could deliver, according to NBC Universal chief digital officer George Kliavkoff, who openly mused about the possibilities Wednesday at the Digital Entertainment Media & Marketing Excellence conference at the Hyatt Regency Century Plaza in Los Angeles.

"Sometimes it's a lot more interesting than the show," Kliavkoff joked, referring to the closed-circuit footage of "SNL's" Friday dry runs viewed at NBC headquarters. "It's something we watch on the cameras at 30 Rock."

Opening the window to "SNL" rehearsals might represent a case of art imitating art imitating art yet again at NBC, which already has mined behind-the-scenes happenings at the sketch comedy franchise as comic catnip for the Tina Fey half-hour series "30 Rock" and dramatic grist for Aaron Sorkin's drama "Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip."

Kliavkoff, who has been overseeing NBC Uni's digital efforts since coming over three months ago from a similar post at Major League Baseball, was participating in a panel discussion on digital media when he presented the "SNL" idea as one of a growing list of original content ideas bubbling up at the company's digital studios.

Much of the panel's discussion centered on whether the emergence of user-generated content will become an art form unto itself or just a way for establishment media to skim the cream of the crop. "We see the Internet as our new A&R," Kliavkoff said. "We're out there scouting. The good stuff bubbles up to the top."

Steven Starr, founder and CEO of viral-video outlet Revver, begged to differ. "From our point of view, we see creators develop with no intention of going offline," he said. "Lonelygirl15 is making a substantial amount of money on a weekly basis just by being online."

A variety of digital mavens from companies and trade organizations were on hand at DEMMX, including Martin Nisenholtz, senior vp digital operations at the New York Times Co., who laid out the newspaper company's evolution to a digital brand, including growing investments in video and wiki content.

"We've transcended the idea of being a newspaper online," Nisenholtz said.

The day opened with a keynote address from Vince Broady, head of entertainment, games and youth at Yahoo! Inc., who candidly acknowledged the company's struggles to match the momentum of rival Google. Noting the brand wasn't as "sparkly" as it used to be, Broady pledged a turnaround was ahead.

"It's just good to remember that things won't always be this way," he said. "Change is going to happen."