Zucker: TV News Must Become More Interactive

Mainstays of network news, including "The Today Show" and "NBC Nightly News" must become more interactive, Jeff Zucker, president and CEO of NBC Universal Television Group, said Tuesday in New York.

"We are going to have to come to grips with this new world order," Zucker told the audience at a panel discussion during a conference about broadband usage sponsored by Yahoo! "I don't think there's enough interactivity right now, particularly on 'Dateline,' 'Nightly News' and 'Today,'" he said.

"I don't know why Brian Williams isn't blogging right now," Zucker added. "I don't know why Katie Couric isn't blogging right now."

Joining Zucker on the panel about the future of content was Lloyd Braun, head of Yahoo! Media Group and a former ABC television executive, and Phil Guarascio, in charge of marketing and sales for the National Football League. The panel was moderated by Doug Weaver, president of Upstream Group.

Network news isn't the only programming struggling with interactivity, panelists said. Zucker said that NBC might also create for short shows specifically for the Web--but only if the network believes doing so will be profitable. "As long as we are, at the end of the day, paid for our content," he said, "we can develop those 'mini-movies' or one-minute soap operas."

Yahoo!'s Braun said the Internet company was still waiting to see what kind of original content would resonate with Web users. "I haven't seen a Milton Berle moment, or 'I Love Lucy' monent," Braun said. "We haven't yet seen what that hit, that gets into the zeitgeist, is."

Braun said that, for now, Yahoo! intends to leverage a wealth of information about its 175 million registered users worldwide by sending them personzlied recommendations about products. "We're going to help the consumers see choices, based on the consumers' tastes, that they consumers might not see by themselves," he said. Braun added that Yahoo!'s data on registered users could be the basis of a "very important role we can play with partners going forward."

Many industry observers have wondered whether Yahoo!, headed by former Warner Bros. co-chair Terry Semel, intends to start creating original content. In addition to hiring Braun last November, Yahoo! also announced plans to open in Santa Monica -- both of which fueled speculation that Yahoo! was positioning itself to create studio-like programming.

But Braun said the company had no plans to emulate television to that extent. "It's the Internet. It's not television and it's not print," Braun said, adding, "I don't think we should be doing what television does."

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