MEDIAWORKS: VH1 is busy creating programming for a variety of different platforms. What are the different considerations among them? Why does VH1 programming work so well on them?
MICHAEL HIRSCHORN: Weâ€™ve moved from being a music channel only to being a music and pop culture arbiter. Being able to parse through what we like and donâ€™t like in current and retro pop culture is a very good brand essence to have on the Web and other platforms. Also we work very well in short form; a lot of what we do is very fast paced and chopped up into two or three minute segments that work well on the Web. Ultimately just putting TV on the Web isnâ€™t going to be the big win. Itâ€™s up to us to find Web-centric models that employ the VH1 approach.
MEDIAWORKS: Youâ€™re launching Web Junk 20 on Friday, taking viral Internet videos to the TV screen. What drove this?
MR. HIRSCHORN: We had so much material coming in and weâ€™d really been noodling it around before the iFilm merger. But when MTV Networks bought iFilm, it was an amazing opportunity to work with people who have literally thousands of clips. Weâ€™ve worked well with what we call clip shows and the clips everyoneâ€™s really excited about today are on the Web. So we can put it through the mill and come up with this.
MEDIAWORKS: Youâ€™re launching your first foray into scripted comedy with â€śNotorious,â€ť starring Tori Spelling. Why go there?
MR. HIRSCHORN: We really feel that weâ€™ve established ourselves tonally as a very specific generational voice. Itâ€™s really centered in pop culture and music and really speaks the way someone in their 20s or 30s would speak about pop culture with shows like â€śI Love the '80sâ€ť and â€śSurreal Life.â€ť The Tori project really shared that to quite a remarkable degree. Sheâ€™s self-aware to an extreme of how sheâ€™s seen in the public and as someone whoâ€™s willing to play with her personality and her upbringing.
MEDIAWORKS: Youâ€™ve been a magazine editor, run a Web site, and now youâ€™re a TV programmer. Whereâ€™s the future of media headed?
MR. HIRSCHORN: Digitization and digital media is the biggest thing now. When we did Inside.com, we were both three years too late and four years too early. We were built on the idea that the Web and other media would merge. Now itâ€™s happening. The impact is precisely as profound as 1999. Itâ€™s huge and not to be underestimated. It will transform all other media, but Iâ€™m not sure if it will destroy it.
MEDIAWORKS: What worries you most about the business?
MR. HIRSCHORN: Clearly from a business perspective the Web has the potential to undermine the ad model of all other media. Thatâ€™s where the biggest threat is. On the flip side thereâ€™s talk that digitization will increase the power of brands like VH1 because we can get our shows and content out to more people. If you look at some of the terror over DVRs and TiVo, itâ€™s unfounded because viewership has gone up rather than down. ... Increasingly, the Web is going to be integral to everything we do on TV. Specifically, user-generated content is the engine of the Web. Itâ€™s up to us to engage and excite users and viewers to become part of what weâ€™re doing. â€śWeb Junkâ€ť is a good example of it. Viewers upload clips and get credit for their participation in the show. You can see the amazing influences of user-generated content on places like Delicious, Technorati, Google blogs. To the degree we can get people excited about VH1 and bring it into the slip of that, itâ€™s exciting.