SBJ/Jan. 24-30, 2011/Media

NBC veteran Miller to lead marketing integration for sports

In the first major personnel move since regulators approved Comcast’s acquisition of NBC Universal last week, NBC’s longtime marketing chief John Miller is moving back east to join NBC’s sports group.

Miller, the inspiration behind NBC’s famous “Must See TV” tag line, will lead a newly formed marketing and promotions group under the banner “The NBC Sports Agency.” He has been quietly working in this role since November and will be tasked with making sure that Comcast’s sports properties work together with NBC’s.

John Miller (at right) has a long history of working with Brandon Tartikoff (left) and Bob Wright.
“My goal is to immediately start pulling together the resources from all these groups,” Miller said. “The real magic for us here is that we have not had cable sports channels as part of our portfolio in the past.”

Miller’s immediate to-do list will be to develop cross-channel spots to promote shows and sports across all of NBC Sports’ and Comcast’s channels. Miller believes that a steady stream of Versus and Golf Channel promos on NBC will help build ratings on those channels.

“With the fire-hose effect of the broadcast network, we think we can add a couple of tenths of a ratings point to our cable telecasts,” Miller said.

Miller also will oversee the marketing around the rebranding of Comcast’s sports channels, which will include new names and new logos for Versus and Golf Channel, NBC Universal Sports & Olympics Chairman Dick Ebersol said. There’s no word on what those channels will be called, but the changes will not happen immediately and could possibly be pushed into next year.

“So much goes into changing names,” Ebersol said, referring to everything from changing logos on production trucks to making sure the programming mix works.

Viewers got their first peek at the type of marketing Miller will create over the weekend, when NBC ran promos of Versus’ NHL coverage during its hockey coverage. That was a small preview compared to what Miller has planned for the NHL All-Star Game this coming weekend.

Miller will remain chairman of the NBC Universal Marketing Council. In that role, Miller has designated NHL All-Star Weekend a “cross-channel priority” for the company, something that until now has been reserved for NBC’s biggest events. That means spot promotions for the event — which is Sunday in Raleigh and airing on Versus — will appear on 19 Comcast and NBC networks and 46 Comcast and NBC websites.

Golf viewers will see similar changes next month, when NBC and Golf Channel share coverage of the WGC Accenture Match Play Championship, Feb. 23-27. NBC’s telecast will carry an on-screen logo describing NBC’s golf coverage as “Golf Channel on NBC,” Ebersol said.

Initially, the channels will not share on-air talent that much; eventually, they will. Miller will play a big part in making that happen.

Miller, who has headed NBC’s marketing department since 1985, has a sterling reputation as someone who has helped drive ratings for NBC’s shows.

Best known for coming up with the network’s “Must See TV” tag line, Ebersol sang Miller’s praises as someone who has never failed to “open a show.”
“Was there an audience the next week?” Ebersol asked. “Sometimes not. But it always opened.”

Ebersol said he jumped at the chance to bring Miller over to sports when he became available.

“We would have taken this and done a good job,” Ebersol said. “Under John, we have the opportunity to take this and do a great job.”

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