Frances Manfredi: Exec Behind the Netflix Deal Heard Round the World
From her seat at NBCU, a central position in the shift of the digital market
By Paige Albiniak -- Broadcasting & Cable, 8/20/2012 12:01:00 AMB&C's 2012 Digital All-Stars
“It was the same kind of stuff that went on between broadcast and cable in the early years,” says Manfredi, who was promoted to her current position in October 2011.
By “same stuff,” Manfredi means arguments over exclusivity. Back in the day, television stations expected to pay high license fees in exchange for exclusive rights to content. Today, with so many players on the field, only the highest bidders get exclusive rights, and those bidders are few and far between.
Manfredi was eyeing digital deals—which now grab all the industry headlines—long before anyone thought doing business with these upstarts would be feasible or even lucrative. Today, all of the studios consider digital streaming deals found money, and they are rushing to make them.
“Digital was immediately interesting to me,” says Manfredi, who holds an MBA from NYU’s Stern School of Business.
Above all, Manfredi says she is careful about “preserving the health of the linear ecosystem. The linear off-net businesses are still far larger than the digital ones. That may change in the future, but right now we would never want to do a deal on one platform at the expense of another.”
Manfredi’s most recent digital deals include providing a package of Universal’s movies— those that aren’t first headed to premium cable—to Netflix, as well as last year’s extension of the 2007 deal with Netflix, adding such shows to the package as Parks & Recreation and Parenthood.
And while these deals allow Manfredi to monetize content that otherwise might not generate additional revenue, all of them also serve the health of NBCU’s main broadcast and cable networks.
“There’s so much talk about ratings erosion because of digital platforms,” she says. “But what we believe—and we’ve seen strong evidence of this—is that distributing shows across more platforms means more cross-platform sampling. Viewers are going online to sample content and then coming back to the linear network to watch new episodes.”
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