Welcome to Semafor Media, where we are borne back ceaselessly into the past.
Visiting NBC’s headquarters at Rockefeller Center used to feel like visiting the Intrepid, the decommissioned aircraft carrier a few blocks west. It was another faded museum of 20th Century America.
And NBC often gets shoved aside, in media reporting, for more exciting companies — as was the case in its unusually boring CEO sex scandal a few weeks ago. So when Elon Musk announced last week that he’d hired Linda Yaccarino, NBC’s top ad executive, coverage focused on the flailing social media company.
But the more interesting story may be about what made Yaccarino, and NBC, so successful. She has, as Max reports below, been winning the argument in the ad market against social media, and in favor of NBC’s safe and wholesome bundle.
The company was viewed, just a few years ago, as a digital laggard and a bit of a muddle. It had taken a quixotic stance on streaming. While Netflix, Warners, CNN, and Disney went all in on subscription services, NBC fed content into Hulu and sold ads on its own lower-budget services.
Now subscriptions are out of fashion, and ads are back — even at Netflix. NBC News is low on drama in a dramatic industry. And the fact that its top ad exec is an industry star says something about NBC, as well as about Yaccarino.
We wrote the other week about the sense that media had turned back to the future. You can certainly feel that unexpected turn at 30 Rock. As the Times wrote recently of the center’s hot new restaurant, Le Rock, Midtown’s decades-long slide into mediocrity is over.
Read on: CNN is still roiling, the upfronts are looking grim, Vice is still collapsing, and the walls seem to be closing in on the singular Chinese publication Sixth Tone.
And: Our events keep making news, and my colleague Steve Clemons is leading a conversation May 25 on one of Washington’s big topics, infrastructure.