American Magazine Conference 2007

Comstock: We're Experiencing Media Golden Age

But NBC Integrated Media Chief Says Content Is Still King

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BOCA RATON, Fla. ( -- Beth Comstock, president of NBC Universal Integrated Media, told American Magazine Conference attendees today that we now spend more time with media than we spend sleeping.
Beth Comstock says media is not mainstream until 40% of homes adopt it.
Beth Comstock says media is not mainstream until 40% of homes adopt it. Credit: Doug Goodman

But even a few minutes of her rapid-fire presentation proved that Ms. Comstock spends more time studying media than we spend doing, well, anything. Which is a good thing for us, because there remains a lot to learn.

The 40% rule
As she clicked her way through some pretty comprehensive research, for example, Ms. Comstock said media technologies can be considered mainstream once 40% of houses adopt them. That means video-game consoles, just over 40% by her account, are already mainstream media.

Digital video phones, at 35% adoption? Not so much. Surprisingly, the same is true of the seemingly ubiquitous MP3 player, she said, pointing to research placing their reach at just 34%. Digital cable scored 33%.

Digital video recorders, the source of the most anxiety for companies like NBC Universal have only reached 22% penetration, according to NBC's research. But of course that number is growing rapidly. "It's causing a lot of anxiety in our world," she said.

Personalization, social networking
On the other hand, however, the burgeoning web-video world isn't just about short clips any more. "We're also seeing the growth of long-form video," Ms. Comstock said. "We've seen an absolute explosion in the past 10 to 12 months of television shows."

Personalization capabilities and new applications for video are likely to come soon as well, Ms. Comstock said. "If you look at what happened with music, video is following," she said. People pay more for ringtones -- sometimes several dollars—than for songs on iTunes -- where 99 cents can do the trick -- because ringtones for their phone are more personal, she argued.

Social networking online is increasingly being viewed as entertainment of its own sort, she continued, citing the virtual extensions for NBC shows such as "The Office" and "Heroes."

This all reflects the many, many quick changes affecting the media business, but that's all right, she said, calling this a "golden age" of media. "It's a great thing to be a content company in the digital age," she said. "Content is always going to win."
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