NBC Universal puts more on Comstock's shoulders

Digital czarina's new role spotlights convergence of TV and new media

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catkinson@crain.com

Beth comstock's domain within NBC Universal grew a little bit bigger last week. The company's digital czarina was named president-integrated media, a new role that takes in oversight of ad sales and ties that function more closely to marketing and research within the General Electric Co. unit.

The move underscores the speed at which TV and new media are converging, a shift that requires a rethinking of roles both at media conglomerates and at agencies that buy across multiple media.

The change comes in the wake of Jeff Zucker's promotion to president-CEO of NBC Universal this month. Mr. Zucker was quick to streamline operations with two other appointments, changing the roles of cable exec Jeff Gaspin and West Coast exec Marc Graboff as well.

Ms. Comstock, 46, previously president of NBC Universal digital media and market development, has been aggressively making the rounds in the advertising community, speaking at conferences and visiting media agencies. "We've been on the road with Alan Wurtzel, [NBC Universal president-research and media development], having meetings with key agencies about what their marketing objectives are," she said. "Marketers know their consumers, but they don't always know their market behaviors. We can help them understand and reach those people."

NBC Universal has established a digital-marketing council involving film, TV and cable. The group talks once a month and meets quarterly. "That's what I'm excited about: bringing those resources together," Ms. Comstock said.

Ms. Comstock joined NBC Universal in December 2005 from GE, where she was chief marketing officer, personally appointed by former GE Chairman Jack Welch in August 1998. After moving to NBC Universal, Ms. Comstock led the charge last March to purchase iVillage for $600 million and had a hand in bringing Mike Pilot, NBC's recently appointed ad-sales president, over from a GE finance division.

When asked how her new role marrying marketing, sales and research will benefit NBC advertisers, she said: "I look at this as a marketer; that's how I've tried to approach this. Marketers have become closer to their target customers, and we can help them navigate that. ... 360 degrees is really the way we work now, offering more customization for advertisers. Look at Bravo and 'Top Chef.' They created a TV offering, wireless offering and broadband offering, and an advertiser like Sears had a really robust experience."

Mr. Zucker simplified Mr. Gaspin's title, now president-cable and digital content. Under Mr. Gaspin, the cable-content and cable-distribution divisions will combine under one unit.

Mr. Graboff becomes president of NBC Universal TV, West Coast. In that role, he will oversee the NBC network and studio and NBC's internal marketing divisions. Mr. Graboff will also oversee the domestic syndication business.
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