Peter Kafka

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Mr. Hulu Gets a New Gig: Former NBC Digital Boss George Kliavkoff Goes to Hearst

george-kliavkoffGeorge Kliavkoff, who left his job as NBC Universal’s chief digital officer last year, has a new, similar-sounding gig: He’s going to work at at Hearst, where he’ll run digital operations for entertainment head Scott Sassa.

The job: Figure out how to turn some of Hearst’s cash into a  portfolio of digital properties. Hearst owns chunks of cable networks like Lifetime, A&E and Disney’s (DIS) ESPN; produces syndicated TV programming; and runs a newspaper syndication business, but has very little exposure to the Web. Kliavkoff’s job is to change that.

At NBC, Kliavkoff’s chief claim to fame was helping the company launch Hulu, which he ran briefly before the JV brought on Jason Kilar as CEO. At his new gig at Hearst, he says he plans on both building and buying properties and that he has some M&A candidates in mind. “I do think it’s a good time to be acquiring digital media properties, because they’re well priced compared to where they were a couple years ago,” he said.

The move may cause some head-scratching among Kliavkoff’s peers since it looks like he’ll be doing the same thing he was doing at NBC, but with a smaller group of assets.

The positive spin: He’ll have more freedom to get stuff done at Hearst, both because it’s a private company with more patience than his last gig and because he’ll have more authority. While Kliavkoff gets credit for helping NBC cobble together Hulu with News Corp.’s (NWS) Fox, he didn’t have as much clout there as some of his digital peers at other big media companies enjoyed. (News Corp. is the owner of Dow Jones, which owns this Web site.)

The deal will bring two veterans of GE’s (GE) NBC together, though neither worked for the broadcaster at the same time. Kliavkoff came to NBC after running business development at Major League Baseball’s digital operations, in 2006; Sassa worked as a top programmer at NBC from 1997 through 2003.

Sassa later took a stab at running Friendster, the granddaddy to social-network sites like MySpace and Facebook, and briefly ran, a bloggy/Web 2.0 start-up that shuttered last year.

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— Gitesh Pandya of comments on the dreadful opening weekend box office numbers for “The Fifth Estate.”