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Former News Corp. Exec Rich Battista Launches Celebrity-Centric Site Snakkle (Exclusive)

Rich Battista

The new multiplatform web venture features content focused around "Before They Were Stars" and "Where Are They Now?" themes.

TV industry veteran Rich Battista, who spent many years as a top executive at News Corp. and Gemstar-TV Guide International, has launched a new web venture.

The site, dubbed Snakkle, focuses on celebrities, specifically with content revolving around the themes "Before They Were Stars" and "Where Are They Now?"

Battista came up with the name, which he derived from the word "snack," as something "that is consumed in digestible pieces, leaves you wanting more and is something you can share with others." He also came up with the concept and serves as founder and backer of the site, which launched in beta mode June 13.

"Consumers seem to have a limitless appetite for this type of content, and I believe it becomes increasingly valuable in a digital world with the numerous and efficient ways it can be exploited," he said.

Some content pieces posted on the site have included a mother-daughter gallery showing how famous moms like Madonna looked very similar to their daughters in their youth, "before they were stars" galleries on the True Blood cast and Modern Family star Sofia Vergara and old photos of celebrities who had "big hair" when they were younger.

Battista emphasized that the galleries and photos also are accompanied with original reporting, with writers reaching out to get updates on fan favorites like the Pretty in Pink cast, pegged to the movie's 25th anniversary.

"Another unique thing about the site is that it's positive and celebratory in tone, which is very advertiser friendly," he said. "It's not meant to take down celebrities; it's not mean-spirited."

Right now, the company has a staff of about 10-15 people, including full-timers and consultants, with offices based in Santa Monica. The site is targeting 18- to 49-year-olds, which will likely skew female, Battista said.

Looking ahead, Battista is aiming for Snakkle to be a multimedia venture. He's already working on a concept for an app that he believes will be "very viral." The site, which is ad-supported, is also looking at video as a big component going forward, and Battista said he's having conversations about ways to push the brand into television and publishing.

He declined to provide traffic data but said the numbers "have far exceeded our expectations thus far" in terms of time spent on site and average page views per visit. Snakkle content also has gotten picked up by such traffic drivers as the Huffington Post, Yahoo and TMZ, which is a key component of Snakkle's strategy to build its audience.

"This confirms what I believed, that this is the type of content people love to consume," he said. "It's a pretty addictive site. I'm cautiously optimistic we're on to something here."

Battista most recently was executive vp at News Corp., which he left in November, and before that was president of national cable networks at Fox. He also spent four years as CEO of Gemstar-TV Guide International, where he built TVguide.com's unique visitors from 2 million to more than 8 million a month at the time he left the company. He said that experience gave him the "inspiration and confidence" to launch Snakkle.

Battista added that Snakkle is just one of many ventures he's working on. He just sold a docu-series to a "major cable network" that begins shooting next week but said he couldn't reveal further details at this time.

Additionally, he recently joined the board of the Best Buy-funded Tecca, a tech information and content site that's for "non-hardcore techies" and skews slightly female.

Battista also is working with partners to launch a fund that would adapt movies into Broadway musicals, adding that he's been a lifelong fan of musicals and starred in several theater productions in high school and college.