5 QUESTIONS FOR: Yahoo!'s David Katz

  • by September 27, 2005
David Katz is an interactive programming whiz. Tapped recently to head sports and entertainment programming within Yahoo!'s Santa Monica, Calf.-based Media Group, Katz reports to Lloyd Braun, the Group's president. The former senior vice president of strategic planning and interactive ventures at CBS, Katz produced the official Web sites for more than 200 shows a year on the Eye network including "CSI: Crime Scene Investigation," "Survivor," and "Late Show with David Letterman." He also developed the online video subscription service "Big Brother 24/7" at CBS, along with creating, developing, and producing the online talk shows "House Calls: The Big Brother Talk Show" and "Survivor Live." OMMA's Tobi Elkin shot Katz some questions:

You worked on interactive media in a broadcast TV environment. Now you're working at the world's biggest Internet media company. What's different about the two environments?

While there are certainly cultural differences, at the end of the day, the two environments have the same goal -- to aggregate the largest possible audience and then deliver compelling content to the viewers or users. The name of the game is driving engagement. At CBS, we relied on on-air promotion to raise awareness of our shows and internet properties. At Yahoo!, we have the ultimate cross-promotional engine on the Internet -- the Yahoo! Network. We have more than 350 million users worldwide: That's bigger than any TV audience, and it allows us to drive people from Messenger to News to Sports.

What are you hired to do at Yahoo!? What specifically do you bring to the job?

I am responsible for overseeing Yahoo!'s Sports and Entertainment properties, which include Yahoo! Movies, Yahoo! TV, Yahoo! Sports, and our branded entertainment businesses. The game is changing for content providers and advertisers. I think I bring a 'programming' sensibility. Broadband creates new opportunities for programmers and advertisers. We're no longer limited to static, database-driven pages, but instead can create much more dynamic, immersive content experiences.

What kind of sports and entertainment content will work online? We've seen Yahoo! form alliances with individual entertainment properties ["Entertainment Tonight"], production companies like Mark Burnett's, etc.; what do you think the future of the digital content business is?

I think you will see a mix of licensed content, partner content, original content and user-generated content. I can't tell you specifically what kinds of sports or entertainment content will work online, but I can tell you that the winners in this space will be the ones that most successfully adopt a consumer-centric mentality. Community and personalization will become fundamental pillars of a user's experience around content. Fantasy Sports is a terrific example of people forming communities in a customized environment tied to big media brands.

You spent eight years at the Eye network on interactive ventures. CBS now appears to be making a big bet on digital media. How is CBS' commitment to online, multiplatform media different today than it was when you were there?

I wouldn't want to speak for CBS at this time, but you now see all of the traditional media companies placing larger bets on the Internet. I think the biggest change in the industry is the sense of urgency. There is a legitimate fear that if [companies] don't develop these interactive businesses, they will become less relevant to their audiences and advertisers. From the Yahoo! perspective, we view the broadcast and cable networks as great partners.

What's your take on original programming for the Web?

This one could take 20 pages. Original content on the Web takes many forms: content produced specially for the Web but tied to a traditional media property; unique content produced with the Internet user in mind; and user-generated content. My take on original content is that it must be conceived with a specific audience in mind and it needs to use the unique characteristics of interactivity. Simply re-purposing segments of TV shows on the Internet won't cut it.

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