NBC U’s Digital Chief


NBC Universal’s deal to buy female-focused Internet portal iVillage for $600 million in cash gives the company a new way to reach women, while also providing NBC a way to further cross-promote its shows. Beth Comstock, president of NBC Universal Digital Media and Market Development, will oversee the site after the transaction closes, likely during second quarter 2006. She spoke with B&C’s Anne Becker about the deal and NBC’s endeavors on various emerging platforms.

What’s your grand plan for iVillage?

The strategy is to continue to have new vehicles for advertisers to reach consumers in new ways, but that’s not the only part of it. We look at iVillage as the centerpiece to our digital strategy. It gives us scale, it gives us a platform, and it gives us a new forum for engaging with consumers and creating a different kind of experience with our content.

How will it work with your existing Web presence?

It will be complementary with MSNBC. The other Web sites we have are network-specific and have historically been more promotional. We are making them more commercial. The NBC Web site will evolve more around core entertainment programming. For example, take the experience that’s expanded for The Office. That makes most sense to continue on platforms like NBC.com. That’s not to say The Office might not also have a place on iVillage, but it would be a different, more tailored, more customized experience to that community.

OK, so a more female-focused Office?

Not always. There are parts of iVillage that are more for certain types of interests. We foresee career and business growing as a new vertical over time, and that would appeal to both men and women in a different way. Parenting is one that’s on there right now that appeals to both men and women.

Which platforms get most traction and with which viewers?

It’s still early days. If you’re looking at iTunes’ download-to-own model or mobile, it’s still very early at this point. There’s still a good bit of experimentation, and that’s the approach we’re taking in some of these areas: to try to make some money but also to learn so we understand what the business model is. But in terms of trends, the one we feel most confident about is the ability to offer more video online through broadband. It’s reached a critical mass. It’s become a more mainstream kind of activity. That’s a trend that’s helped us feel good about our broadband offerings.

What’s your own favorite non-NBC Web site?

I’m a big Gawker fan; I’m keeping up with all the gossip. I’ve got so many. From a digital perspective, I like Boing Boing. I’m a big iTunes person. I spend a lot of time on Amazon and quirky little one-offs. I do my banking online. I spend a lot of time on MSNBC.com. I’m also a big video iPod user. I love it, and I absolutely love the video experience on my cellphone. Frankly, I didn’t do that much of that before I took the job.