As USA Networks Inc. prepares for the digital age, it has
hired Larry Rubin, a Viacom Inc. executive, to chart its strategic course.
Rubin, coming off the orchestration of Blockbuster
Video's initial public offering as Viacom's associate general counsel, will now
set his sights on USA Networks' digital and interactive initiatives as senior vice
president of business and strategic development.
Rubin, 40, will use his extensive mergers-and-acquisitions
experience to seek out new strategic partnerships.
"We need to shape the channel in the next several
years as we move into a broadband, digital world," Rubin said. "As every good
lawyer does, I wanted to stop being a lawyer. It only took me 15 years."
Rubin will report directly to Stephen Brenner, president of
operations at USA Networks. Rubin had encountered Brenner when USA was partly owned by
A key component of Rubin's mandate will center on
exploring opportunities to leverage the maturing interactive-TV marketplace.
"We're looking at a full array of interactive-TV opportunities to find the right
partner. We're talking to all of the big players," Rubin said.
He believes that emerging technologies like digital-video
recording could have a significant impact on the advertising marketplace.
This interactive technology, marketed by companies like
TiVo Inc., allows viewers to gain greater control of their viewing experience. For
example, a person could customize his viewing by programming the system to locate all of
the cooking shows that he has access to.
"Digital-video-recording technologies with
skip-forward buttons do make you think about the possible limits of a 30-second
commercial," Rubin added.
As for any potential USA Networks deal to acquire an
Internet portal following the aborted Lycos Inc. attempt, Rubin said he hopes his unit
will be important in chairman Barry Diller's thinking.
Diller had hoped to use Lycos to pump up the volume for his
Home Shopping Network. Rubin does not anticipate a central role in any future USA Networks
attempts to snatch up a portal.