While print media is slowly losing its rock stars, it looks like the digital world is taking a hit too. George Kliavkoff, the chief digital officer at NBC Universal and one of the people responsible for bringing Hulu into the mix, is leaving the company a year before his contract expires. He announced his resignation in a memo:
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’m not declaring victory, and Digital Media will continue to exist as part of the Strategy & Development group, I think much of my work here is done and I’m looking forward to other challenges.
Mr. Kliavkoff gave a review of NBCU’s accomplishments since he took the chair, including developing Hulu with News Corp. and bringing in record online numbers for the Olympics. He came to NBC as its first chief digital officer in 2006, after nearly three years at MLBAM, the digital arm of MLB. He commuted to New York from Seattle for the job.
Mr. Kliavkoff said he would stay at NBCU until the end of this year, and then move on. "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," he wrote.
Hmm, will he stay in New York to start some start-ups? We’ll find out in 2009…
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’m not declaring victory, and Digital Media will continue to exist as part of the Strategy & Development group, I think much of my work here is done and I’m looking forward to other challenges. As a result, I have chosen to exercise an option in my contract and leave NBCU at the end of the year. I remain available to Jeff Zucker and the rest of the team during and after the transition.
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.
In the 2-plus years since I arrived, NBCU has made significant strides in digital. I want it to be clear that my group does not take credit for any of these other than having helped set a tone and create a culture where hopefully there was a new focus on, and understanding of, digital. Here are some highlights:
— Digital revenues across the company will easily exceed $1 billion in 2009, more than double digital revenue in 2006. Operating profit from digital will more than triple during the same time period. This is the work of dozens of extraordinarily talented people in every NBCU business unit.
— We partnered with News Corp (NYSE: NWS). to start Hulu, which became a top-ten video site within four months of launch and has won numerous awards and wide praise. We brought Providence Equity on board with a $100 million investment for a 10% stake in Hulu. I was honored to be Hulu’s first CEO and to serve on the board of the JV. Hulu would not have been possible without the unwavering support of Jeff Zucker, Jeff Gaspin, Marc Graboff and other NBCU leaders, and I am confident Jason Kilar and the Hulu team will continue the great success story they are starting to write.
— NBCOlympics.com just completed the largest digital media event of all time by delivering 1.3 billion page views and streaming 10 million hours of video to 52 million unique visitors. This is the result of the great vision of Dick Ebersol and Gary Zenkel and fantastic execution by Perkins Miller. — We launched the Peacock Equity Fund as a joint venture with GE Commercial Finance, deployed almost $100 million in early stage investments in digital media companies and navigated Peacock to its first successful exit (the sale of Adify to Cox). I was proud to sit on the Peacock Board. — NBCU stood up for the industry with a major distributor of “download to own” content and achieved the goal of establishing wholesale pricing flexibility, a first for the industry. JB Perrette and his team led this initiative and, in my opinion, the entire industry owes them a debt of gratitude.
— NBCU successfully worked with ISPs and content aggregation partners in the last 2-plus years to significantly stem the tide of pirated NBCU video content available on the Internet. Rick Cotton has been the industry’s guiding voice in developing these innovative, consumer-friendly approaches to combating piracy.
— NBC.com’s traffic has ballooned over the past 2-plus years. Vivi Zigler and her team run one of the largest TV network websites in the world and continue to embrace social networking tools, viral distribution methods including widgets, and other forward-thinking digital practices to deliver the best customer experiences to fans of NBC’s various shows. The successful distribution of this season’s SNL political skits on nbc.com, in embedded players across the Internet, on Hulu and elsewhere is a testament to how robust and wide-ranging our digital efforts are.
These accomplishments, and many others, too numerous to mention, are an indication that a digital mindset has in fact taken hold throughout NBCU, in every business unit. I am perhaps most proud of this, because it means that NBCU will continue to grow in our increasingly digital media future.
In all, I am extremely proud of the work that our centralized digital team has accomplished in the past few years and I look forward to continuing to watch the progress that NBCU makes in the digital space. I consider all of you friends first and admired colleagues second. It has truly been my honor.