×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

NBCUniversal CEO Says DVRs ‘More Impactful’ on Ratings Than Netflix

LAS VEGAS – NBCUniversal CEO Stephen B. Burke talked up the continued viability of broadcast and cable television in a keynote Jan. 7 at the Consumer Electronics Show, while conceding that prior to the company’s purchase by Comcast Corp. five years ago he never would have predicted the impact of time-shifting and over-the-top (OTT) services like Netflix and Hulu on the cable business.

“I thought cable entertainment ratings were going to be stronger than they are,” he said during a CES “C Space” keynotes, presented by MediaLink. “Cable entertainment ratings are weaker than they were just two or three years ago, and that’s because all the alternatives are getting better and better.

“If you carry a show on cable that’s a rerun, it’s hard to maintain the same ratings when you have [so many other] great choices.”

Asked by moderator Michael E. Kassan, chairman and CEO of MediaLink, about his perception of OTT leader Netflix and whether he considers the subscription streaming service a friend, an enemy or a “frenemy,” Burke said, “I think, all of the above. Netflix has created a wonderful business and a great delivery mechanism. And while they are obviously affecting ratings at some level, I think time-shifting and DVRs are more impactful.”

Burke said he’s a little surprised by how some advertisers are discounting television in favor of digital. “There’s this perception among some advertisers that advertising on digital is this wonderful, shiny new thing that’s better,” he said. “The reality is that if you want to reach millions and millions of people, if you’re launching a new product or repositioning a brand, television is a fantastic way to do it. With digital, not only can you not get the reach you get with television, but also people don’t pay attention to the ads the way they do on television, and you don’t get the emotional attachment that you get from great television campaigns.

“We have some films that are very niche, and you have a high percentage of digital [in the marketing mix]. But if you want a film to be a blockbuster, then you’d better be out there on the Super Bowl.”

Asked about the single biggest challenge facing NBCUniversal, Burke said it’s the same as the biggest challenge facing all businesses, “inside or outside of media: the impact of the Internet. We were sitting in a meeting, and someone said digital is really affecting television and movies, and someone else said, ‘Name a company that’s not being upended, or dramatically changed, by the Internet. If you’re running Walmart or GM, every company is affected by the tremendous changes that are going on. We have to be as smart as we can be, unafraid to hire different people and meeting with different companies and investing in different places.

“We’re going to make good bets and bad bets, but it’s like the original broadcast companies that did not invest in cable. Existing businesses are not going to go away – people are going to watch broadcast television and cable for many years to come – but we need to get better at distributing our product on the Internet and creating content for the Internet.”

As an example, Burke said that for the upcoming Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, NBCUniversal will once again produce about 50 biopics on athletes “as a way to have viewers understand who’s important to the Olympics and get an emotional attachment [to the athletes.”

But this time, “as a result of our investment with BuzzFeed, this year BuzzFeed is going to send 12 people, probably young people who have never done documentaries like this before, down to Rio, and those people are going to interview athletes with whom we’re not doing up close and personals.” These profiles will air exclusively on BuzzFeed, “and you can be sure they’re going to be done from a different perspective and hopefully get younger people, millennials, who love BuzzFeed, to think about the Olympics in ways they might not be doing now. That’s the reason we invested in BuzzFeed – to learn from them. And that’s just one example – hopefully there will be hundreds, in the future, of how we’re trying to change the company.”

Burke said this willingness to innovate, to try something new, is what attracted him to Comcast when he first joined the company 17 years ago after stints at ABC Broadcast and Euro Disney. “When you’re running a company and living in a time of great change, you have a bunch of different choices, but the most important thing you can do is keeping leaning in and trying to build a company,” he said. “When I joined Comcast we were a regional company, centered around Philadelpia, and the thing that got me to join, and the thing that excited me, what that the company has always been entrepreneurial. You get in trouble, in a world that’s changing, when you’re preserving the status quo.”

Asked how he intends to navigate his company in an environment where OTT is the talk of the town, Burke said, “For as long as I have been in the media business, there has always been something that was going to put something else out of business,” he said. “Satellite was going to put cable out of business – that was 25 years ago, and Comcast has never had a down quarter.

“My perception is there is more competition now than ever, which makes it harder to have a show that’s a hit –- but people are watching more television now than ever, and the vast majority of that television that is being watched is still broadcast and cable.”

More Digital

  • Facebook's Oculus Quest Shows How AR

    What the Oculus Quest Can Teach Us About the Future of Mixed Reality

    Facebook’s new Oculus Quest headset is a great gaming device that simplifies virtual reality (VR), doing away with the need for an expensive PC and external tracking hardware. But with its integrated tracking, the Quest can also teach us a thing or two about the future of virtual and augmented reality. Those two areas of [...]

  • snapchat-logo

    Snapchat Takes Down Porn Lenses, May Start Cat-and-Mouse Game

    Snapchat quickly removed a handful of x-rated augmented reality lenses Tuesday, dealing a blow to efforts by adult entertainment company Naughty America to promote its subscriptions to the service’s users. However, the porn studio may not be quite done with Snapchat just yet, as it is still distributing the source files that allow Snapchat users [...]

  • YouTube logo

    Why YouTube Is Changing the Way It Reports Subscriber Counts

    Within the next three months, YouTube will change the way it publicly displays channel subscriber counts: It will provide only rounded figures instead of actual follower numbers. For example, under the change, T-Series — the Indian music-video channel that recently surpassed PewDiePie to become the most-subscribed channel on the platform — would be listed in [...]

  • Phillip Eubanks and Marc Hemeon Join

    Phillip Eubanks and Marc Hemeon Join Troy Carter’s Q&A

    Q&A, the music and tech company founded by former Lady Gaga manager and Spotify exec Troy Carter, today announced the appointments of Phillip Eubanks as Chief Operating Officer (pictured above, right) and Marc Hemeon as Head of Design (left). The pair join Carter, J. Erving (Human Re Sources, Atom Factory), Suzy Ryoo (Atom Factory, OMD) [...]

  • Simran Sethi Quits Netflix India Role

    Simran Sethi Quits Netflix India Role

    Simran Sethi, the Los Angeles-based director of Netflix international originals, responsible for India content, has resigned and will quit after a transition period. Netflix did not comment. Sources familiar with the matter told Variety that Netflix prefers an executive based in India to oversee local original content that has now grown to 11 series and [...]

  • The Secret Life of Pets 2

    ‘The Secret Life of Pets 2’ Tops Studios’ TV Ad Spending

    In this week’s edition of the Variety Movie Commercial Tracker, powered by TV ad measurement and attribution company iSpot.tv, Universal Pictures claims the top spot in spending with “The Secret Life of Pets 2.” Ads placed for the animated film had an estimated media value of $11.52 million through Sunday for 869 national ad airings [...]

  • Cory-Haik-Vice

    Vice Media Hires Cory Haik, Former Mic Publisher, as Chief Digital Officer (EXCLUSIVE)

    Vice Media has recruited Cory Haik, former publisher of digital news start-up Mic, as chief digital officer to lead the youth-culture company’s global internet businesses. Haik will be based at Vice’s Brooklyn headquarters and report to CEO Nancy Dubuc. She most recently worked at Mic, which last fall laid off virtually its entire staff before [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content