NBC Universal looks to feed off Rmail

LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - NBC Universal has made a minor acquisition that will play a part in a major shift for its business down the road.

A large sign of NBC Universal Entertainment hangs on a building at the NBC studios in Burbank, California, in this May 19, 2004 file photo. NBC Universal has made a minor acquisition that will play a part in a major shift for its business down the road. REUTERS/Fred Prouser

Last week, the media giant quietly scooped up Rmail, a two-year-old firm that specializes in converting RSS feeds to e-mail. Sources peg the cost of the acquisition, which NBC Universal declined to announce, at a mere $150,000. The service has only 50,000 users.

But NBC Universal chief digital officer George Kliavkoff believes Rmail is a key piece to the company’s digital strategy.

“Rmail is the first brick in building a pyramid that will provide a technology base that will make us better at engaging and targeting audiences,” he said.

Rmail essentially functions as an RSS intermediary, aggregating feeds so that they are easily transferable if the subscriber changes e-mail addresses. While that might seem a relatively niche functionality to interest a mass-media company, Kliavkoff notes that Rmail provides insights into harnessing data on consumer behavior.

“It’s a way for us to start learning about how to pay attention to what customers are doing and make predictive understandings of what they might be interested in and start learning about RSS,” he said.

With Rmail, NBC Universal examines consumers’ RSS feeds and uses that information to target individual subscribers with relevant programming or advertising messages. Applied correctly, the technology helps NBC Universal reorient itself toward a more responsive, individualized approach to consumers.

NBC Universal already has plenty of its content offerings available via RSS, including the online arms of MSNBC and NBC Sports as well as digital-only properties iVillage and DotComedy.

“We have tons of it, but as a company we’ve never paid attention as to how we can improve the technology,” Kliavkoff said.

The acquisition of Rmail was not made through NBC Universal’s recently announced partnership with GE Capital to invest in media and technology companies.

Reuters/Hollywood Reporter