NBCU International Digital Restructure Emphasises Direct Downloads; Vivendi Looks Beyond Apple

NBC Universal (NYSE: GE) International is shaking up its digital focus with a restructure that splits operations along two new lines (see release).

Digital assets: New recruit Kevin Obi will lead a new digital assets team in London after recently being appointed SVP digital assets. Reporting to NBCU’s global networks and digital initiatives president Roma Khanna, and with a dotted line to NBCU’s chief digital officer George Kliavkoff, Obi will focus on the “strategy and development of … branded digital assets in the international market”. This team will be responsible for international digital partnerships. Obi was director of commercial development at Orange UK before joining Synergy Inc.

New media licensing: This unit will be led by LA-based Beth Minehart, promoted from EVP for international on-demand licensing to EVP of international new media in the international TV distribution unit. A more conservative realignment here, focusing on licensing international VOD and subscription content to cable, satellite, digital terrestrial, internet and mobile. But she will add “electronic sell-through” to her responsibilities list, suggesting a greater focus on download-to-own content. Minehart’s responsibilities are split, reporting to NBCU International Television Distribution president Belinda Menendez on VOD matters and to Craig Kornblau, the president of both Universal Pictures Digital Platforms and Universal Studios Home Entertainment, on download-to-own.

This comes, of course, as NBCU and Vivendi’s (EPA: VIV) Universal Music Group (UMG) look at not renewing contracts to distribute TV and music downloads via iTunes Store, so the focus on international electronic sell-through on an international basis looks interesting. Hollywood Reporters notes that French viewers can stream or download-to-rent NBCU’s Heroes show via TF1’s website, for example.

Vivendi CEO Jean-Bernard Levy said this week (via Reuters): “The split between Apple (NSDQ: AAPL) and (music) producers is indecent … Our contracts give too good a share to Apple. We are in a phase during which many different actors are talking to each other … We are trying to put in place several projects to ensure that music is better remunerated … We are not just talking to Apple.” He wants a greater cut of revenue from new releases. Although Vivendi owns UMG outright, it also owns 20 percent of NBC Universal so it’s not hard to see some commonality.