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AMC 2007: NBC Prez: Content Providers Must Know Consumers ‘Like We’ve Never Known Them Before’

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Who are the people in your “viewser” neighborhood? Addressing “What Magazines Can Learn From TV” at AMC, NBC Universal Integrated Media president Beth Comstock makes the introductions.

In a slideshow-laden presentation that miraculously managed to keep AMC attendees’ after-lunch attention today, NBC Universal Integrated Media president Beth Comstock advocated allowing consumers to govern all parts of the “viewser” — viewer+user — experience in her keynote talk, “What Magazines Can Learn From TV.” Video, according to Comstock, is where NBC sees “a lot of activity,” and the company is currently trying to shift its ideas on small-screen consumption, with NBC is “trying to get our head around the fact that day time is primetime” in the world of online video. In addition, she painted an either terrifying — or terrifyingly familiar — picture of just what those viewsers are getting up to in bed.


In researching how viewsers consume their media, NBC came across what Comstock referred to as “the iPod love story,” wherein “the woman is watching TV in bed and the man is coming in to bed with her with his iPod, because he wants to be with her. They want to be together, but they’re looking at different things.”

In addition to bedroom doings, NBC is tackling heady issues such as “how do you define community” while “getting more narrow and more diverse at the same time while we figure out what ‘local’ is,” said Comstock. She underscored the import of keeping consumers in control, whether by enabling them to stream programming per their own convenience or even dictating the development of a TV show’s plot. Pointing to NBC’s series Heroes, Comstock highlighted it as an example of NBC getting content right “from the beginning,” by engaging those interested in the show through television, online and wireless, where they’re invited to dictate plot points as played out on the TV show through voting and other types of participation.

On the social networking front, we could swear we heard a cash register r-r-r-inging in the background when Comstock mentioned how “incredibly excited” NBC had become about “virtual worlds and gaming. What captures our imagination are the virtual economies that are springing up,” she said. “Users are willing to trade in real money for virtual things, and that’s an economy that’s growing.” However, she legitimately pointed out that “increasingly, social networking is being seen as entertainment” and that NBC had taken measures and adopted tools to go more toward connecting its community rather than offer ways of profiling the individual, rhetorically inquiring, “How do we get the value of the network front and center?”

Though Comstock’s talk of mantras and the breakdown she offered of different types of online viewsers dipped a bit far into corporate meeting-speak for us (life managers, info hounds and connectors, meet self-expressers, creators and escapists), the ultimate goal rang true for TV and magazine companies alike: “to know viewsers so well, we can serve content they don’t even know they like yet … [creating] a world where content follows the viewser. Our role is as concierge.”

—Rebecca L. Fox

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