Brains behind Hulu leaves NBC

George Kliavkoff, NBC's chief digital officer, is leaving to either form, manage, or invest in a tech start-up, CNET News has learned.

Greg Sandoval Former Staff writer
Greg Sandoval covers media and digital entertainment for CNET News. Based in New York, Sandoval is a former reporter for The Washington Post and the Los Angeles Times. E-mail Greg, or follow him on Twitter at @sandoCNET.
Greg Sandoval
2 min read

George Kliavkoff, the man who helped draw up the blueprint for a string of successful digital media services--from Hulu to Major League Baseball Advance Media--is leaving NBC Universal at the end of the year, CNET News has learned.

George Kliavkoff gave NBC Universal Hulu. Now he's looking for a new challenge. NBC Universal

After a little more than two years as NBC's chief digital officer, Kliavkoff says he has accomplished the goals he set for himself and the company's digital unit when he joined in August 2006. He is taking time off before jumping into his next project.

Kliavkoff, 41, has chosen to exercise an option in his contract and leave NBC at the end of the year but will remain available to CEO Jeff Zucker "during and after the transition," he said in an internal e-mail.

"I believe in my heart that this is a best time to start, run, or invest in digital companies and I am very excited about moving on to my next challenge," Kliavkoff wrote.

In Silicon Valley, the book on old media executives is that they're not supposed to "get it." Nobody says that about Kliavkoff.

"George came to NBC Universal when we were nowhere in digital," said Zucker in a statement. "We asked him to help us change the fundamental orientation of a traditional media company from an analog to a digital mindset. George did that, and did an outstanding job job for us.

"George came to NBC Universal when we were nowhere in digital. Today, our digital properties are thriving across the company."
--Jeff Zucker, NBC Universal CEO

"Today, our digital properties are thriving across the company, and are now embedded in each of our divisions. So I completely understood when he said he was ready for the next phase of his life, and I am grateful for all of his efforts. We wish him all the best in the next chapter of his career."

He was Hulu's first CEO and helped set the strategy for the site. In its first four months, the video portal leaped into the top 10 among video sites and has become the one legitimate challenger to YouTube.

Kliavkoff's group oversaw the online distribution of NBC's Olympics coverage, which delivered 1.3 billion page views and streamed 10 million hours of video to 52 million unique visitors. According to the internal memo from Kliavkoff, it was the "largest digital media event of all time."

Digital revenues across NBC will exceed $1 billion in 2009, Kliavkoff wrote.

Even before arriving at NBC, Kliavkoff was a rising star in digital media. He was executive vice president at the digital arm of Major League Baseball Advance Media (MLBAM). At a time when all the other sports were offering only stats and player bios on the Web, MLBAM began generating big revenue by charging fans to watch games online.