Web, TV blend in Diller's grand plan

Teaming with Ben Silverman on new ventures

NEW YORK -- Barry Diller is ready to press the content-creation envelope again, having unveiled in quick succession digital and TV programming production firms with Ben Silverman and one of the founders of CollegeHumor.com, which is part of Diller's Internet firm IAC.

The two new production outfits seem ready to use a Web 2.0-type approach in that they intend to commit less money upfront than is typical in the entertainment world, meld brands and content more aggressively and look for ways to finally bring TV and the Web closer together.

IAC has had mixed success with its content strategy so far. In December, it shut down its programming group as part of its separation into five companies. Headed by TV veteran Michael Jackson as president and former MTV Networks Games executive Nicholas Lehman as COO, the group was responsible for acquiring and developing content-based sites, including the successful CollegeHumor.com, but also Kurt Andersen's Very Short List, which some have pegged for a sale; Tina Brown's Daily Beast, which has created buzz but no profit; and comedy site 236.com, a joint venture with the Huffington Post that has struggled.

But Diller has in recent appearances maintained that consumers will and must pay for good content, even on the Web. His two new content ventures seem ready to take a new and different stab at that.

"The new company will aim to go further than the industry has gone before, by bringing marketing and advertising expertise in-house to help advertisers sponsor, support and be involved with the content-creation process from the beginning," IAC said Monday about the Silverman project, which is looking for additional investors and partners NBC Universal is one likely option.

The company's products are likely to employ Silverman's expertise with blending content with branding and advertising. For instance, Silverman said he is looking to provide advertising solutions to the multiplatform media empire of pal Ryan Seacrest, who tweeted about the new venture early Monday.

IAC had unveiled Friday the launch of Notional, a video-content firm headed by Ricky Van Veen, who has served as editor-in-chief of CollegeHumor.com site. It will create programming of all genres for all demographics -- not just CollegeHumor's young males -- intended to be distributed across various media platforms, including TV. It "hopes to bring the DNA of an Internet company to an international production company," IAC said.

"We're trying to take what we've mastered online -- the ability to create attention-getting pieces of content at a low price -- to other people and platforms," Van Veen added.

He also said, "From Barry Diller's days at Paramount and IAC's early involvement in Reveille to CollegeHumor's 10 weekly original videos and the growing editorial voice of the Daily Beast, IAC has, in one way or another, had a hand in content creation since its founding."

In a conference appearance Friday, Diller had likened the sort of "cracklingly funny" content creation going on at CollegeHumor to the film industry in 1914, arguing that it is an indication of the quality improvements in store and the money to be made from digital content.
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