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5 in 5!

September 1, 2010

5 Questions. 5 Minutes. 1 Employer. This week: Erica Marie from NBC Universal.

I’m a manager of digital distribution at NBC Universal. Our department distributes film, broadcast, and cable content across many digital platforms, including mobile, EST, VOD, broadband partners such as Hulu, and emerging platforms like ITV and the iPad.

1. What do you look for when you hire an intern?

The most important things for me are passion and knowledge about the industry (across entertainment, media, and digital) and a desire to learn. There is a hard skill set that’s necessary, but as long as you have a good foundation, the tipping point is what you know about the space and how you think about it.

2. How did you get started in the industry? How can I get started?
I got lucky. I sent in my resume and they happened to pull it out and give me a call. People get lucky or they network their way. You need to read the trades and understand the space. Know what’s happening and know the deals that are going down. Keep track of how movies perform in the box office,think about forecasting revenue,learn about windowing (very important), understand the convergence of media platforms and develop an understanding of cross-platform programming strategy. Don’t just look at a trend – understand what it can mean from a consumer experience perspective. And talk to as many people as you can. You really have to knock down doors.

3. What is the future of your industry?
If you’re thinking about opportunity to grow then I would say there are a lot of opportunities in the digital space and the international space, particularly around content distribution in both areas. We, as an industry, are moving toward cross-platform distribution.  The consumer will ultimately have access to all the content that they purchase at any place, at any time – the questions that are still open are at what price point, with what restrictions, and when/how will this happen.

The biggest challenge we face is shaping that future before we get there. How do we authenticate or gate content and devices so that we can monetize the content? How do we take a premium platform and keep a premium price point when there are lower cost platforms that exist that fulfill consumer demand? How do we keep a high margin when there are subscription models and lower priced options, such as RedBox, that put downward pricing pressure across the market? What will a digital locker look like and will the consumer be happy with this option? How do we maintain the integrity of the value of the content?

Also, TV and film are very different, and the business models are different. Our biggest challenge in TV is to figure out the future business model. Advertising has been the traditional model, but does it work on new and emerging platforms? Other Immediate issues are 3D, authentication / digital rights management, the digital locker, subscription services, lower margin competitors (kiosks, redboxes, and others), the concept of TV-everywhere, and premium VOD….the list goes on.  Everyday there’s something new.

For us, it’s not about fighting the future, but shaping it. There isn’t a way to keep the content out of viewers’ hands.  They’ll get it somehow, someway. It’s about shaping how they consume it, where they consume, and how much money they consume it for.

4. What is one main thing an intern can do to make a favorable impression? To make a negative impression?
Favorable – Initiate projects that are relevant and insightful. Multi-task well. Execute well.

Negative – Being late in person or on a project. Being lazy. Being sloppy. Not asking questions when they need to. Ask smart questions so you don’t end up running around in circles on a project. Interns shouldn’t be afraid to ask questions.

5. Give us a positive intern story? An intern horror story?

Horror – Back when I was at MTV, we were very open about including the interns in everything – they were as valuable as coordinators. One day we had a talent meeting with a rapper, and this intern got along with everyone really well. Someone from the band asked him if he wanted to help on tour. He went for two weeks without telling anyone and not calling in, and then came back in two weeks expecting his internship to still be there!

Positive – We had an MBA intern in our Home Entertainment division at Universal Studios. He was very smart and driven. During the intern program, he branched out and worked with the undergrad interns on a pilot program where the interns would pitch creative TV ideas to the NBC development team – including a marketing plan, business plan, and creative development – and get feedback. I was a judge on the panel, so I got to see the team that he worked with. This intern did a bunch of research, called various departments, got numbers to fit in the plan, and led his peers in an organized fashion. Keep in mind that this was separate from his regular internship, so he was doing this on top of his day-to-day work. In the end, he helped put together a fantastic presentation, and helped the undergrads understand presentation skills and pitch the idea. They won the competition and got a lunch with a high level creative director at NBC as a reward for their efforts.

Get started at NBC with an internship, apply now!

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