NBC’s Digital Strategy, to Beijing and Back

NBC Universal chief digital officer George Kliavkoff today talked up the network’s digital initiatives, ranging from the upcoming streaming coverage of the Olympics to the launch of its latest niche “network” online.

Kliavkoff, a keynote speaker at Streaming Media East, said NBC plans to produce 2,200 live hours of coverage of the Beijing 2008 games for the Internet and mobile phones.

A conference attendee asked Kliavkoff why NBC selected Microsoft’s new Silverlight technology, a cross-browser, cross-platform plug in to deliver online video for such an important event.

“Microsoft has a long history of doing great video online,” Kliavkoff replied, adding that the software vendor could provide resources and personnel to the initiative. He declined to specify what, if any, portion of costs Microsoft is subsidizing for the event coverage.

NBC is now aggregating health videos that have appeared on NBC for use in a health network, the second of such niche networks. Earlier this year, NBC invested in DriverTV, an automotive video site, as the centerpiece of an online auto network. Between “The Today Show” and “NBC Nightly News,” NBC produces as many as 50 to 60 health videos that can be aggregated for use in an online library. Kliavkoff said text-based health sites are potential distribution partners.

Dan Rayburn, conference chairman, asked Kliavkoff about the status of NBC Direct, a desktop application designed to allow for the automatic download of a television episode to a subscriber’s computer hard drive. Kliavkoff said the application is still in trials. “It’s a complicated thing to build well. We’re taking our time,” he said.

Asked about CBS’s decision to purchase CNET Networks for $1.8 billion, Kliavkoff said: It’s a great way for CBS to get a lot of scale quickly.

“Sometimes I envy Quincy,” he continued, referring to CBS Interactive president Quincy Smith. Why? “I work for GE. We couldn’t have got that deal approved.”

Kliavkoff predicted that IP video would be delivered to television, though the delivery mechanism is still to be determined. “Traditionally, it’s been difficult to convince people to put an extra box in their system,” he said, adding businesses that can make that happen are satellite providers that deliver high-speed data to homes, game console makers because their boxes are connected to TV sets, or television manufacturers.

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