Stressing their focus on consumer-friendly design, NBC and News Corp. named Amazon executive Jason Kilar to head their new online video venture. Kilar joins the company July 9 as Chief Executive Officer and will report to its board, including NBC Universal President/CEO Jeff Zucker and News Corp. President/COO Peter Chernin.
The yet unnamed venture, or "Newco" as it's most often called, is being designed by the companies as both an ad-supported destination for aggregated TV and film content, and a syndication business that will distribute that content to partners. Kilar, an Amazon veteran of nearly a decade whose biggest contribution was adding DVD sales to the company's business, was the right fit for Newco because of his understanding of user-friendly web design, said both Zucker and Chernin in a conference call.
"We don't want this to be big media's attempt at a digital business," said Chernin. With the venture, NBC and News Corp. are largely aiming to ensure that Google’s YouTube does not have a stronghold on monetizing online video. "We want this to be a standalone digital business and we think it's critical that we bring in a leader who comes from that background."
Kilar, also on the conference call, said News Corp. and NBC were "ferociously" committed to Newco and that his goal was "to create a great customer experience truly worth of remark."
He takes the reins from NBCU's Chief Digital Officer George Kliavkoff, who had been leading the company while the board searched for a permanent CEO.
After a two-year stint at Disney, Kilar spent from 1996 to 2007 at Amazon, where he introduced sales of DVDs to the online book retailer. Eventually rising to Vice President/General Manager of the company's North American media businesses, Kilar's relevant experience to Newco includes his successful negotiations with Hollywood studios for the rights to sell their content and it online. He was ultimately Senior VP, Worldwide Application Software.
Given his background, Kilar's initial duties will likely include signing more and bigger content partners than the smaller cable networks that have agreed to let Newco distribute their programming. The venture, announced by the two companies in March, is being readied for a September launch with the stated goal of creating the “largest Internet video distribution network ever assembled." With distribution partners that include Time Warner’s AOL, Microsoft’s MSN, News Corp.’s MySpace and Yahoo!, NBC and News Corp. press materials say the content will reach "98 percent of the monthly U.S. unique users on the Internet." Content partners now include Comcast's E!, Style Network and G4, as well as Oxygen, Sundance and the News Corp-owned Speed and Fuel TV .
Newco has hired about 30 people so far and began moving operations into new offices this week, said Chernin. NBC and News Corp. sold its inventory during the upfront that just wrapped.
NBC and News Corp. initially hatched plans for the venture amidst industry talk that they and other major content owners like Viacom and its corporate sister CBS were floating plans to begin a "YouTube killer" that would stop to online video behemoth from cornering the market.
Those talks never led to anything concrete because the partners could never agree on specifics regarding revenue sharing and whose content would be most prominently displayed at any given time.
Right now, News Corp. and NBC are "in lockstep" over major decisions, Chernin said on Wednesday's conference call. He called Newco the "single smoothest part of my life right now" and "about as easy and straightforward as anything I've worked on in an awful long time."
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