George Kliavkoff, A Hulu Mastermind Leaving NBC
“Much of my work here is done.”
George Kliavkoff, the chief digital officer told the staff at NBC Universal that he will be exercising an option in his contract to step down by the end of they year. Kliavkoff was one of the masterminds behind the launch of Hulu, the startup that shook the online video industry.
“George came to NBC Universal when we were nowhere in digital,” stated Jeff Zucker, President and CEO of NBC Universal. “We asked him to help us change the fundamental orientation of a traditional media company from an analog to a digital mindset. George did that.” Kliavkoff also pushed for NBC’s role in broadcasting the past Olympics.
Where Will George Go From Here?
George indicated that he is interested in some sort of role as an investor, digital startup, or digital startup within a traditional company.”
Below is the full e-mail that he sent to the company (via paidContent):
This article was written by Amit Chowdhry. You can follow me at @amitchowdhry or on Google+ at +AmitChowdhry
Subject: Thank you!
“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.
— NBCU’s combined web properties went from being a top 100 destination in 2006 to a top 10 destination now through great organic growth at NBC.com, CNBC.com, MSNBC.com and other sites, and through acquisitions, most notably the recent acquisition of Weather.com.
— 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.