A reporter from a major newspaper emailed me on Friday with three questions about the Ryan Seacrest/NBC Universal two-year, multi-platform deal. He had found me from one of my non-Maremel roles: lecturer at UCLA Anderson Graduate School of Management. (I’m off this quarter, and back in June with their summer program.)
He asked about (1) whether ubiquity is necessary in media these days, (2) what the deal was like from a management point-of-view with Ryan as a business, and (3) whether there is a risk of backlash.
I thought about these issues, and came back with five ways to view the deal:
- Diversification of his brand portfolio with this deal, to expand into prime time, sports, elections, and a broader morning show portfolio.
- Comcast/NBCUniversal’s need to bring younger audiences to NBC News, and elections, and possibly women to Sports.
- Social Media, essentially in “buying” a Klout score
- Ubiquity – Wow, he’s been ubiquitous for years
- Strategic role vs. being the product
- Diversification: I’d contest he already is ubiquitous, though in entertainment modes across the US and some global distribution. What this deal gives him is diversification; it helps him move from an entertainment brand to a news, politics, sports, and prime time brand. Bluntly, it could reduce his “fluff factor.”
- Comcast audience challenge: The TV audiences are getting older, or younger viewers are finding other modes of engagement instead of watching network TV as network TV. Ryan is a broadly appealing brand with a younger audience base than election coverage usually attracts. Whether the Today Show, the news, or even Prime Time, Ryan brings a potentially younger demographic than currently is showing up to those genres. For US elections, this age gap in attention on Network TV is of increasingly important; as Morley Winograd says in his work on Millenials, “only 5% of Super Tuesday’s votes were cast by people under 30,” while they make up a much larger percentage of the US population. (http://communicationleadership.usc.edu/blog/post_6.html)
- Social Media: He also brings a nice, high Klout score (85), a strong Twitter following (6.6 million), robust Facebook following (487,000 subscribers), and other direct connections with fans. That asset set dramatically could help the interconnections with these old and new media delivery arenas for NBC Universal.
- Ubiquity: Being in LA, Ryan has been everywhere for years. I think I first heard him on KYSR back in the 1990s. As he added in his American Idol, E!, and American Top 40 expansions, it felt to many of my friends here that Ryan was everywhere all the time…quite a while ago. My funny story there: My two teenage daughters joined me at a much younger age to see an American Idol live taping, I think in Season 2. Ryan came into the audience and spoke with them a while, which both my (now) 14-year-old and I remember vividly. She remembers that moment now, mentioning that it was so cool as he was a famous person (back then). I asked her about him now. “Well, he’s a lot less famous now.” I think that the “ubiquity” might be apparent now to those Americans who spend time in traditional television; it won’t affect or even be noticed by my 14-year-old unless those outlets come into her social media sphere to do more than just hire Ryan.
- Strategic Role vs. Being the Product: He already was amazingly busy as an individual. I’m not sure how all of this will work for him. As a leader of a production holding company, his time will be swamped out by all of this face-time. I don’t know Adam Sher and Jeff Refold from his company management team, or his support network including his CAA team – I’m hoping that they will be able to leverage these new demands on his time, as well as the January co-investment in AXS TV and new incoming funds from Clear Channel and others. Hopefully they can mix this all with his time and health, creating strategic opportunities for him to make it all happen.
Some comparisons have been made with Dick Clark. Dick Clark Productions leveraged his time, making his ideas come to life. Dick did a lot of things himself, but seemed to structure his business world to help him amplify his influence beyond his appearance. Ryan has made some efforts in that regard, but the deals in January would be the core to help him create robust, permanent economic legacies for him other than his charm and appearance. Perhaps this NBC Universal deal can help him bridge in this direction as well. I hope that it doesn’t put too much complex pressure on his time that may pull pieces out of a complex puzzle.
Ryan Seacrest ubiquitous? Nah. 😉