NBC, News Corp. Online-Video Joint Venture Names CEO

Jason Kilar, Formerly of Amazon, Will Build User Experience

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- NBC Universal and News Corp. installed a new executive at the helm of their infant video-distribution business, saying that developing a positive customer experience will be of primary importance before the business can launch in earnest.
Jason Kilar
Jason Kilar

The two media giants named Jason Kilar CEO of the nameless joint venture, commonly referred to as "NewCo." Mr. Kilar, 36, comes from Amazon, where he helped the e-commerce site expand into the video and DVD businesses and became general manager of all the company's North American media businesses. He later served as senior VP-worldwide application software, overseeing Amazon's Marketplace business.

The right move
Putting an e-commerce executive in charge of an operation that is supposed to be supported by advertising may not seem like the right move at first blush, but both Peter Chernin, president-chief operating office of News Corp., and Jeff Zucker, president-CEO of NBC Universal, said Mr. Kilar would be instrumental in making the site easy to use.

"The key and most important issue for us in terms of leading is building a great user experience," said Mr. Chernin during a conference call Thursday. In fact, he said on the call, the site could launch after its target of September if executives don't feel proper "ease of use" has been developed. "September might happen and it might not happen," Mr. Chernin said.

Indeed, finding the best way to run an ad-supported video portal is the topic of much debate. Media and ad executives are puzzling over whether consumers are annoyed or entranced by so-called pre-roll advertising, where video clips lasting anywhere from 10 to 30 seconds run before a piece of online content. Unlike with TV, where viewers' programming is interrupted by ads they often can't avoid, web surfers can click elsewhere at a moment's notice to hundreds of other choices.

Consumer reactions
Earlier this month, NBC Universal, Microsoft's MSN and Publicis Groupe's Starcom MediaVest Group formed a consortium to study consumer reactions to emerging forms of online video advertising.

"The best web businesses are the ones that never forget that the customer experience is what drives the heart and soul of the business," Mr. Kilar said.

Originally slated to make its debut this summer, the News Corp.-NBC site is expected to contain full episodes and clips from programs such as "Saturday Night Live" and "The Simpsons" as well as movies. The two companies have said it will reach 98% of the monthly U.S. unique internet users and have secured distribution agreements from parties such as AOL, CNET, Comcast, MSN, MySpace and Yahoo. Charter advertisers include Cisco, Cadbury Schweppes, Intel and General Motors.

Executives said ad inventory on the new site was made available to interested advertisers during the upfront sales process.
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