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SXSW: TV Everywhere Is Too Confusing, Says Lauren Zalaznick

NBCU exec veep says second screens are most interesting thing in TV right now

Austin —  In her first public chat since shifting last month to her new digital-focused post as exec veep of NBCUniversal, Lauren Zalaznick gave Tuesday’s conference crowd at South By Southwest Interactive a glimpse at big-picture issues the television industry faces in meeting the evolving tastes and needs of today’s wired consumers.

In a wide-ranging Q&A session with former CEO of CBS Interactive Quincy Smith, Zalaznick touched on TV Everywhere authentication services and the second-screen realm, just two of the digital areas in her strategy sights.

Zalaznick said that varying early iterations of TV Everywhere are somewhat complicating consumers’ understanding of the concept, offering examples of three very different models — the ad-free HBO Go, NBCU’s live app for the London Olympics which enhanced the live streaming, and ESPN’s TVE service.

“TV Everywhere has a simple goal but if you have a complicated answer to the simple question of what it is then consumers become a little confused,” she said. “My primary concern, and my company’s, is delivering on the promise of TVE and marrying advertising to it, which is the next evolution of the thing we call television.

“The bridge between great content and advertising and the value that creates in the ecosystem is that you only get paid by proving how many people consume your content,” she continued. “There’s a divide between not being able to measure TV accurately enough and then not measuring off-TV screens at all.

“But my belief is that the technology will catch up,” she added.

The most interesting thing in TV, Zalaznick said, is the second screen drive. “Not so much as another place to watch shows, which was been around for ages, but the fact that at least 50 percent of people watching TV have another screen in their hand,” she said, mentioning her previous charge Bravo as an innovator in that realm, employing gamification of content to drive live viewing.

“So now you are judge, the trivia expert, the question asker, the quiz taker and the next wave of this will probably loop back to e-commerce and m-commerce,” she added. “That ‘I like that thing and I want to buy it’ manifestation.”

Moving towards the upfront season, Zalaznick said there’s a hunger and need to get people activated around product: “Agencies and marketers all know they need to be in digital, mobile and social and still on the web because the consumer demand is there. When demand rises, ad rates rise, but where you still have a dramatic set of unknowns is where scale matters and how scale matters.

“The good news for us is that advertisers are asking for our help for navigating our content off the TV screen and that’s where we’ll see the next wave of partnerships and economies happen.”

Asked her overall thoughts on her new NBCU role, Zalaznick said she’s excited to focus on the innovation and monetization of “the next.”

“On a portfolio basis, we have a movie studio, cable networks — considering every single outlet it’s just under 100 individual brands. So it’s a chance to think about how to move the whole portfolio forward, and be an entrepreneur inside a big company.

“It’s about pushing against the rules from the inside,” she said.

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