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Mobile is not the death knell for traditional media: NBC Universal exec

NEW YORK - While mobile and other new media have fundamentally changed television and other traditional media businesses, quality content always wins out, according to an NBC Universal executive during her ad:tech New York keynote.

NBC Universal's mobile platform includes live and on-demand video, along with interactive content such as applications, games, the mobile Web and SMS, targeting consumers through a variety of distribution partners. The company and its many subsidiaries are grappling with the new realities of a media world dominated by mobile and social media.

?Old media versus new media is really an artificial distinction,? said Lauren Zalaznick, president of women and lifestyle entertainment networks at NBC Universal Inc., New York. ?The medium is not important?what?s important is how people use these new channels, how they consume entertainment and how we all get paid for that experience.

?Traditional media types tend to get startled when you start talking about Twitter and iPad apps, but these revolutionary devices we have don?t necessarily spell the end of traditional media,? she said. ?In fact, new media might actually enhance users? engagement with multiple content brands, helping them engage longer and deeper, which has always been the goal.

?Quality content wins?it?s not the medium, it?s the content that creates an enduring connection with the consumer.?

Last December?s $30 billion deal between General Electric and Comcast Corp. to bring NBC Universal under the cable operator?s is having a significant effect on mobile content and media.

The Comcast-NBCU joint venture created a veritable broadcast and digital-media behemoth (see story).

NBCU has deals with all of the major wireless carriers in the U.S., plus partnerships with MobiTV, and the company runs pre-roll ads before mobile video clips, as well as banner ads and text ads within SMS messages in conjunction with 4Info (see story).

NBC Universal Television Consumer Products Group has launched a mobile storefront that lets consumers buy content from their favorite NBC Universal television shows on their mobile phone (see story).

Powered by branded mobile entertainment company PlayPhone Inc., NBC?s mobile store offers consumers an assortment of theme-song ringtones and wallpapers from their favorite NBC Universal TV shows, including 30 Rock, Battlestar Galactica, Heroes, Law & Order, The Office and other classic shows such as Magnum P.I., Knight Rider, Leave it to Beaver and Saved by the Bell.

Mobile women
Ms. Zalaznick?s division of NBCU includes primarily female-targeted properties such as Bravo, Oxygen, Green is Universal and iVillage.

Bravo gave fans an inside view and chance to watch the season six finale among their favorite contestants with a virtual viewing party for "Top Chef: Las Vegas."

Fans of the show were able to voice their opinions on the series through Twitter, Facebook Connect and live mobile chat (see story).

Bravo viewers also got the chance to interact directly with their favorite Top Chef judges and chefs live when they joined the party by tweeting their comments during the finale or by following, and answering live viewer questions via mobile and online chats .

NBCU also offered Top Chef-themed discount coupons via Groupon.

Ms. Zalaznick called Bravo?s core audience as ?affluencers,? which she claims are the most affluent, educated and influential audience in cable TV today.

?This audience doesn?t keep up with the Joneses, they are the Joneses, especially on the digital front,? Ms. Zalaznick said. ?Ninety percent of women say that if they like your product, they will recommend it to everyone they know.?

Viewers can interact with sponsors via text messaging and other wireless options, including a branded experience on Foursquare.

Bravo threw a virtual viewing party for the season finale as Real Housewives of NYC, where viewers could interact with the wives via Facebook, Twitter and mobile.

There is also a Bravo Now application that is sponsored by Target.

Ms. Zalaznick claims that Oxygen is the fastest-growing TV network. It targets twenty-somethings, which she calls ?Generation O,? who are working women that are very social in their real and virtual lives.

NBCU engages that audience via mobile and social media.

?The consumer decides?there?s been a dramatic shift in the balance of power in digital media consumption, and the consumer is now in charge,? Ms. Zalaznick said. ?Consumers have demonstrated that they have a boundless appetite for compelling content, and technology enables them to consume it whenever and wherever they want.

?We deliver compelling content on whatever device they want to consume it so that advertisers can engage their target audiences, and technology is an enabler,? she said. ?Whatever the price, the good stuff wins?high-quality, relevant, gotta-have-it content delivered on the consumer?s medium of choice creating a two-way dialogue with him or her.

?When you say consumers will never pay for content that they?ve been getting for free, look at water and ringtones, and never say never.?

Final Take