Following up on Part 1 of our recap, NBCUniversal News Group’s Elisabeth Sami joined us at Taboola’s global headquarters in New York City to speak with WIRED Contributing Editor Spencer Reiss about her role as SVP of Strategy and Business Development. Her team oversees both esteemed news brands (NBC News, MSNBC, and CNBC) and digital news start-ups (Breaking News, Stringwire, NowThis).

Media has always been driven by technology

Throughout the talk, Sami expressed a tone of optimism about the future of media. Although digital consumption is impacting network TV viewership, news consumption is growing overall, creating an opportunity for news organizations to continue investing in and reaching audiences across platforms. The NBCU News Group constantly identifies new ways to deepen engagement with consumers. That might be through news feeds on Twitter and Facebook, on smartphone or tablet apps, or on set top box applications through connected TVs.

Reiss asked whether NBC thought of itself as a technology company and recalled that NBC has long been at the forefront of providing consumers with the newest technical wizardry (its famous multi-colored peacock logo was introduced in the 1950s to celebrate the network’s then-cutting-edge position as “The Full Color Network”). Sami’s view was that NBCU News Group has benefited from the expansive technology resources and capabilities of Comcast.

“If you look at X1 set top box platform, Comcast has been a leader in improving content search and discovery and has seen audience and transaction lifts of 20% or more in markets where X1 has rolled out.”

Using technology to personalize the media experience

Sami also spoke about the opportunities to align editorial programming with technology to provide a seamless and personalized experience for users. Through partnerships with a number of new technology companies, including Taboola, her team has been able to construct a more comprehensive understanding of how their consumers behave on-site.

“If we know someone is a heavy consumer of digital video, we can use technology to make video more prominent in their digital experience. We are testing these ideas and have seen 10-20% lifts in video consumption when we match video content with video consumers. The same goes for aligning content categories to user interest.”Elisabeth Sami

NBCUniversal’s latest efforts to meet consumers in their new digital habitats include rolling out its “TV Everywhere” vision, a plan to livestream the company’s networks. This includes delivering full-length versions of NBC News programs across a variety of digital platforms and at the same time making short-form news clips a key part of digital news consumption. It is about understanding what the consumer wants on a given platform and making it easy for them to get that.

Though her team at NBCU News Group still has many challenges and opportunities ahead of them, Sami’s balancing act of both the company’s traditional broadcast business and newer online ventures is positioning the network for a successful transition into the digital future.

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