When media companies bristle at the increasing prominence of Google in their industry, David Eun feels their pain. As a former executive at NBC and Time Warner, he knows that world well. But he has a message for those who are anxious about Google’s ever-growing capacity to index and distribute their content: We come in peace.
“We are not the enemy,” says Eun, Google’s VP of content partnerships. “We’re not looking to be a media company. We provide technology and the tools and services to help content owners reach their objectives in the digital space.”
Since joining Google in February, Eun has been the company’s ambassador to media companies and providers of print, multimedia and local content (such as maps and satellite images). And as the search engine evolves into one of the leading aggregators of online video—particularly with this month’s agreement to acquire video-sharing site YouTube—he is drawing on his background to partner with TV networks.
STRADDLING THE OLD AND NEW WORLDS
In truth, Eun has straddled the worlds of old and new media since he left his job consulting on technology issues for Bain & Co. in San Francisco to work for NBC Entertainment in 1995.
As VP of business affairs, he worked on the nascent NBC.com, exploring new-media possibilities for NBC shows, including an online extension for Homicide: Life on the Street that used images of the series’ actors and sets to illustrate text-based stories.
In 1997, Warren Littlefield, then president of NBC Entertainment, picked Eun to join an internal working group of “young guns” to help lead the network into the “future of TV.” Eun started NBC Enterprises’ Strategic Ventures Group, charged with creating new businesses and promotional opportunities for the network’s programs.
The group started a publishing imprint as well as a music label, which released a Billboard-charting soundtrack to NBC’s 1999 miniseries The Sixties with Polygram. Even though Polygram’s studio co-produced the program, getting it to approve use of the show’s artwork on the CD cover was an early lesson for Eun in the hazards of sharing content. “You’d think that would’ve been easy,” he says.
Littlefield was immediately impressed with Eun’s strategic acumen. “If you were to sit in a large, executive power meeting,” he says, “David would be the quiet guy in the corner who, at the end of the meeting, everyone would agree, 'We better listen to that guy because he has all the answers.”
After moving on to be a partner at venture-capital firm Arts Alliance, where he targeted tech startups (including the digital video site Atom Films), Eun joined Time Warner as chief of staff to Don Logan, who headed the Media & Communications Group.
Logan praises Eun’s ability to “cut across division lines,” a skill he says serves Eun well at Google “in terms of having to go out and talk to different content companies and different people inside his own organization and build bridges between all of those groups.”
REASSURING CONTENT PROVIDERS
When Eun joined Google, the company was still smarting over charges that its indexing of published content, including newspapers and books, violated copyright laws. In video-based deals leading up to the YouTube agreement (including an August deal with Viacom to distribute and share ad revenue on clips from MTV Networks), Eun has worked to reassure content providers that Google is committed to protecting their copyrights.
He cites Google’s and YouTube’s recent deals with Sony-BMG, Universal Music Group and CBS as evidence that their partnership will “respect the rights of content owners,” not trample over them.
“It isn’t about 'either/or’ thinking,” Eun says. “This is an 'and’ world.”
For Littlefield, the fact that “the most exciting company on the map today” has asked Eun to play so crucial a strategic role “is one more indication to me of just how smart they are at Google.”