Former NBC Universal chief digital officer George Kliavkoff will become EVP and deputy group head of Hearst Entertainment & Syndication, the Hearst unit that oversees company interests in ESPN, Lifetime, A&E and History networks. Kliavkoff is best known for cheerleading the development and launch of Hulu, the highly popular video portal that partnered NBC Universal with News Corp. In just its first year, Hulu has become the second-most-active video streaming service online.

Kliavkoff will report to Scott Sassa, president of Hearst Entertainment & Syndication, himself a former NBCU executive. Sassa said in a statement “George will be an invaluable contributor as we look ahead to developing meaningful and scaled digital assets across the Entertainment & Syndication Group and Hearst’s diverse stable of powerful brands.”

Kliavkoff may be in the market for acquiring new properties to add to the Hearst portfolio in addition to leveraging existing holdings more effectively. He told Peter Kafka at the “All Things D” site that it was a good time to shop for digital now that prices have moderated. Kliavkoff was a pioneer of bringing prime-time content to the Web and creating models for distributing it more effectively. A big believer in hyper-distribution (reaching beyond a media brand’s destination site), Kliavkoff may help the Hearst brands assert a greater presence around the Web. Unlike network TV, however, cable properties face a special challenge in repurposing their on-air video online. Cable and satellite companies, which pay to carry that content, are resisting efforts to put that content online for free. At Hulu, Kliavoff helped create an ad-supported distribution model that complemented rather than cannibalized on-air distribution. It is less clear whether such a model works quite the same way in cable.

Hearst has been grabbing major talent from media brands of late. Last month, the company lured Yahoo’s news and information general manager Neeraj Khemlani away from a major role in the portal’s reorganization to become Hearst’s VP and special assistant to the CEO for digital media.

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