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NBCU Looking at Buying YouTube Networks

Head of biz dev Conkling is scouting out potential deals for online video networks

NBCUniversal is evaluating potential acquisitions of YouTube multichannel networks in multiple genres, with a particular interest in those aimed at women, said Lori Conkling, media conglom’s executive VP of strategy and business development.

“It’s something that we are paying very close attention to. It’s just figuring the right way to go about it,” she said, speaking Tuesday at the VideoNuze Online Video Advertising Summit in New York. “We see the opportunity.”

NBCU does not have any imminent deals in the works, Conkling noted. “We are looking across the spectrum to see which (online networks) align with verticals that are important to us,” she said.

Conkling cited Discovery Communications and DreamWorks Animation as among traditional media companies that have recently bought YouTube networks. Discovery acquired Revision3 in 2012 and last week bought Phil DeFranco’s DeFranco Media, while DreamWorks Animation picked up AwesomenessTV earlier this spring.

To Conkling, a challenge in buying online networks is that the business case is hard to justify. “There’s not a lot of money in a YouTube channel,” she said. “It’s looking through a lens of what these channels could be.”

Internet audiences can be sizable, but it’s often about “breaking through the noise,” Conkling said. NBCU believes it can bring value by promoting digital channels through its portfolio of existing broadcast and cable TV networks to drive sampling online, she said.

“At the end of the day, we don’t want to be in a position where we are not doing something because we are concerned about the quality,” she said. “We want to be where the audience is. We want to be relevant.”

Conkling joined NBCU in February from A+E Networks, where she had been exec VP of distribution. She reports to Lauren Zalaznick, exec VP in charge of developing cross-platform initiatives across the company.

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