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Ex-Viacom executive launches Web venture

January 04, 2007|Richard Verrier | Times Staff Writer

Herb Scannell, who helped build Viacom Inc.'s Nickelodeon into a children's television juggernaut, is wading into online entertainment.

Scannell will unveil today Next New Networks, a company that plans to put more than 30 of what it calls "micro-television networks" on the Internet. The networks will have their own websites and feature entertainment segments lasting three to 12 minutes each. Much of the content will be supplied by Internet communities.

"We're championing and targeting communities that are making and distributing robust content, and providing them a home base with networks built specifically for the Internet," said Scannell, the company's co-founder and chief executive.

The New York-based company will be formally launched today with an infusion of $8 million in venture funding from Spark Capital. "Next New Networks has brought together some of the best minds from traditional and new media," said Dennis Miller, Spark's general partner. "The team has a proven track record."

Scannell co-founded the business with cable television branding guru Fred Seibert, who was the original creative director of MTV and former president of cartoon factory Hanna-Barbera; and Jed Simmons, a former senior executive at Excite and Turner Broadcasting.

The other partners include Emil Rensing, formerly of AOL; and Tim Shey, a veteran producer of interactive and mobile media.

The networks will be built around affiliated Internet groups whose members share highly specialized interests and frequent the same blogs. One network, for example, might feature videos from fans of foreign cars.

Scannell likens the Internet to the early days of cable, when programmers packaged emerging television entertainment to build such brands as MTV.

"Some of the things that we've done well in television, we can do here as well," said Scannell, who headed Nickelodeon for 10 years and launched such networks as TV Land and Spike. "What we're looking to do is bring an audience mentality to the way we think about the Internet."

Scannell, former vice chairman of MTV Networks and former president of Nickelodeon Networks, left Viacom in January 2006 amid a corporate restructuring after more than two decades with the company.

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