NBCU Shuts Down NBBC

NBC Universal last week shut down its video aggregation and distribution service NBBC before it got off the ground. The movie producer and TV programmer instead decided to put its broadband-video efforts behind its new broadband co-venture with News Corp.

NBBC, which was announced in September 2006 amid much fanfare, had signed up about 150 content partners — including A&E Television Networks, The Horror Channel, Vibe Media Group, CNET Networks and Forbes.com — that could upload content to a digital player for other partners to access as part of their Web sites.

The service was expected to launch sometime this year. But before it could get off the ground, NBCU this past March partnered with News Corp. to offer a much larger and broader broadband video service. Tentatively dubbed NewSite, the venture is set to launch at the end of the summer and is expected to offer short and long video programs on its own site as well as through Yahoo, MSN, AOL and MySpace.

Instead of offering two broadband video services, NBCU last Monday announced it was folding NBBC into the NewSite broadband venture.

“NBBC was a huge success,” said George Kliavkoff, previously the interim CEO of NewSite and chief digital officer for NBCU. “They created a video syndication technology platform which is going to be the basis upon which NewSite does its video syndication business, which will be the broadest online distribution network that's ever been put together.”

Last month, NBCU and News Corp. named former Amazon.com executive Jason Kilar CEO of the still-unnamed Internet-video joint venture. News Corp. chief operating officer Peter Chernin said on a conference call with reporters that Kilar's experience at Amazon.com creating a high-quality “user experience” online was the primary skill he brings to the venture. “We don't want this to be Big Media's attempt to build a digital business,” he added.

Kilar, 36, spent almost 10 years at Amazon.com. Most recently, he was senior vice president of worldwide application software, reporting directly to CEO Jeff Bezos. Prior to that, he was VP and general manager of Amazon's North American media businesses, which include books, music, video and DVD. Kilar wrote the business plan for the online retailer's entry into the video and DVD businesses. As head of Amazon.com's media business, Kilar “convinced all of the [movie] studios to distribute through Amazon, which — trust me — is no easy task,” Chernin said.

Kliavkoff said NewSite and NBCU will look to absorb the approximately 45 NBBC employees. “We'll be able to utilize their talents to help build out the NewSite staff,” he said.

Kliavkoff said NewSite will have to renegotiate deals with NBBC's content providers, publishers distributing the NBBC video player and advertisers, but expects most will participate in NewSite.

“For them, this is great news, and we think there's no reason they wouldn't be interested in NewSite,” he said. “After the transition, content partners will have an opportunity to distribute their content at a much better revenue share to a much wider distribution network.”

Veteran TV news producer Tom Jacobs, whose The China Chronicles broadband-video service provided content to NBBC, said he hasn't talked to NewSite officials, but doesn't expect any major problems in the transition.

R. Thomas Umstead

R. Thomas Umstead serves as senior content producer, programming for Multichannel News, Broadcasting + Cable and Next TV. During his more than 30-year career as a print and online journalist, Umstead has written articles on a variety of subjects ranging from TV technology, marketing and sports production to content distribution and development. He has provided expert commentary on television issues and trends for such TV, print, radio and streaming outlets as Fox News, CNBC, the Today show, USA Today, The New York Times and National Public Radio. Umstead has also filmed, produced and edited more than 100 original video interviews, profiles and news reports featuring key cable television executives as well as entertainers and celebrity personalities.