The Baby Bell joint venture of Bell Atlantic, Nynex and Pacific Telesis Group recently tapped film industry veteran Japhet Asher as exec VP-programming and product development. The company is scouting for a director of marketing and just opened an agency review.
Mr. Asher will be responsible for creating original programming for Tele-TV. The programming will run on online platforms, including Bell Atlantic's Internet service and a new Tele-TV Web site (both expected to launch in January); a wireless digital platform; and full-service broadband networks, including Bell Atlantic's Stargazer interactive TV trial in northern Virginia and a planned test from Pacific Telesis.
Programming initially will focus on entertainment, news and information services and roll out into other specialty features, said Howard Stringer, chairman-CEO of Tele-TV.
"Mr. Asher is facing the unenviable task of creating dynamic programming for a number of different platforms," said Mr. Stringer.
Formerly vice chairman of Colossal Pictures, Mr. Asher, 34, has been in the film industry since 1980.
"Interactivity isn't just about pushing buttons and talking back, it's about creating an ongoing dialogue with people and forming a branded emotional relationship with the consumer," he said. "The Internet is a place where we can begin to immediately create our dialogue and work across platforms to see how different projects function in different environments."
Creating a national Tele-TV Web site will be one of Mr. Asher's first projects.
"Tele-TV is entering the Internet business," said Sandy Grushow, president of Tele-TV Media. "We'll be creating a mega Web site along with a national online Internet directory that will be similar to Yahoo."
The Baby Bell partners-which all currently have Web sites of their own-will offer Internet access to consumers and local content to Tele-TV's site. Tele-TV will specialize in national content and build a "Go Local" link onto its site, which will jump users to one of the partners' sites-depending on where the user is based.
Analysts say Tele-TV is setting a precedent for interactive media.
"Not only is Tele-TV creating a second distribution route for its Baby Bell partners who have their own separate agendas," said Gary Arlen, president of Bethesda, Md.-based Arlen Communications. "But it is paving the path for eventual and very important tie-ins between the Internet and broadband and digital services."